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Modern pentathlon

Hommes tirant au pistolet, une des épreuves du pentathlon moderne.

The modern pentathlon is the successor to the ancient pentathlon, which comprised running, jumping, javelin, discus and wrestling. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, highly appreciated the pentathlon of the ancient Games. He proposed a similar competition that would test the strengths of a “complete” athlete, but involve more modern disciplines. The growing popularity of this sport resulted in the foundation of an international federation, the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), in 1848. It currently has over 120 member nations.

Brief overview of the rules

The modern pentathlon is made up of four events combining five sports :

  • Swimming, with a 200m freestyle event;
  • Fencing, first with a ranking round, a tournament where all the athletes compete against each other in one-minute bouts. Then, athletes compete in a fencing bonus round. It consists in a tournament based on the results of the ranking round. The format is elimination, and the bouts last 30 seconds. For each victory, one point is added to the athlete’s score from the ranking round.   
  • Riding, with a show jumping course on an unfamiliar horse that the athlete is allocated in a draw just 20 minutes before they compete;
  • Running and shooting, with a laser-run where the athletes alternate between running and shooting at five targets from a distance of 10m.

The modern pentathlon is divided into two sections. Firstly, athletes score points according to how they rank in the fencing, riding and swimming events, which decide their starting position for the laser run event. Secondly, during the laser-run, athletes start with a delay corresponding to the number of points between them and the leader. The first athlete to cross the finish line in the laser-run wins the gold medal.

Due to the diverse nature of the events involved, the modern pentathlon is an extremely demanding sport that pushes athletes to their mental and physical limits and requires an exceptional variety of skills.

Olympic history

The modern pentathlon was introduced to the Olympic programme for the first time in 1912 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin. Originally one event was held per day, before they were all brought together over one day for a more exciting spectacle. The women’s event was introduced at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. The discipline has long been dominated by European countries, particularly Hungary and Sweden, with the latter taking 13 out of 15 medals available between the Stockholm 1912 and Los Angeles 1932 Games.

Events in 2024

  • Individual (women’s / men’s)

Venue in 2024

Palace of Versailles

International organisation

International federation : Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM)

https://www.uipmworld.org/

© Quinn Rooney/Getty Images