Modern Pentathlon at the Olympics
Modern pentathlon has been on the Olympic program since the 1912 Stockholm Games. It was created by French baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic movement, and combines five events held over two days. These events combine all of the aspects of traditional combat: mastery of the sword, precision marksmanship, ability to control cavalry both in the confines of the arena and in the cross-country, and the physical stamina to cross many miles of both land and water.
The events are:
- Shooting — a 4.5mm air pistol at a 10 meter distance, 20 shots.
- Fencing — using the epee in a round-robin competition.
- Swimming — 200m freestyle swim.
- Riding — Show jumping, 350-450 meter course with 12-15 obstacles.
- Running — 3000m cross-country course. In this final event, the competitors start with time penalties according to how many points they scored in previous events, with the leader starting first. The first athlete across the line is the winner overall.
- Modern pentathlon has been on every Olympic program from 1912.
- A men's team event was held from 1952 - 1992
- Originally the competition took place over four or five days; however in 1996 a one-day format was adopted in an effort to be more spectator-friendly.
- Women's event was added to the program in 2000.
- Until the 2000 Olympics, the distance of the running event was 4 km
- The Modern Pentathlon is the only sport created specifically for the modern Olympic Games.
- George Patton, who went on to become US General George C Patton, was 5th in the modern pentathlon at the 1912 Olympic Games. Ironically, his shooting performance let him down.
- In 1924, American Robert LeGendre shattered the world long jump record with a leap of 25 feet, four inches, but did not win gold in that event. His record leap was part of the pentathlon competition and LeGendre only finished 3rd in the actual long jump competition.
- For the 2012 Modern Penthalon event, pistols were replaced with laser guns. It was also the first Olympic Games in which the running and shooting events were combined - athletes completed three rounds of shooting each followed by a 1 km run.
- In Mexico City 1968, Swedish pentathlete Hans-Grunner Liljenwall is the first to be disqualified for drug use, having tested positive for excessive alcohol (more firsts).
- The best all-time performing Modern Pentathlete at the Olympic Games is Hungarian András Balczó who won 3 gold and 2 silver between 1960–1972. No other athlete has won three gold medals. See more on the Greatest Modern Pentathlete at the Olympics.
- US athlete Sheila Taormina competed in the Modern Pentathlon in 2008, making her the first woman to qualify for the Olympics in three different sports (swimming, triathlon and modern pentathlon).
The name modern pentathon was used to distinguish it from the Pentathlon, which was an ancient Greek athletics event consisting of five competitions each representing techniques useful in battle. (more about ancient Olympic events)
The five events of the ancient Pentathlon were:
- Long Jump - like modern triple jump, using weights as a counterbalance
- Javelin - A leather strap was used to throw the javelin
- Discus - five throws, furthest wins
- Wrestling - same rules as modern equivalent
- Stadion - a short sprint foot race of about 180 meters, the winner was the champion of the game