Encyclopedia of Sport: Every sport from around the world

Modern Pentathlon

Modern Pentathlon is an Olympic multi-sport, comprising five events: 200 meters freestyle swimming, fencing, show jumping (for now), and a combined event of pistol shooting and a 3200 meters cross-country run.

The sport used to be held over five days, but in 1996 a more spectator-friendly one-day format was introduced. In 2021, it was announced that the horse riding event is to be removed, with an obstacle race being considered as the replacement.



The swimming component is a 200-meter freestyle race (previously it was 300 meters), with points based on the finishing time.

The fencing event uses the epee, usually in a round-robin format. Each match usually lasts around one minute. Every competitor faces everyone else, and the more hits you record on your opponents, the more points you earn.

The riding event involves show jumping over a 350 to 450-meter course through twelve to fifteen obstacles. The participants are paired with horses 20 minutes before the competition starts. Riders begin with 300 points and lose a point for every second over a prescribed time limit, and also for knocking over or refusing to jump a barrier.

As the horses are designated to the athletes at random, this is deemed by some to be unfair. There are moves to replace this part of the modern pentathlon with an obstacle race.

Fencing is part of the modern pentathlonFencing is one part of the modern pentathlon

The combined final event (called the laser run) was first held in 2009, in which participants run four 800m-meter laps, with each lap prefaced by hitting five targets with a pistol. The athletes resume running once they have had five successful hits (or after 50 seconds). Previously the shooting and running events were separate. Originally, the event involved three 1000-meter laps with each prefaced by laser shooting at five targets.

For the final event, each athlete starts at different times depending on how many points they have amassed, so that the winner is the first across the finish line.



Related Sports

Related Pages

send us a comment Any comments, suggestions, or corrections? Please let us know.

Sport Extra

Check out the 800+ sports in the Encyclopedia of Every Sport. Well not every sport, as there is a list of unusual sports, extinct sports and newly created sports. How to get on these lists? See What is a sport? We also have sports winners lists, and about major sports events and a summary of every year.

 → How to Cite