What is the modern pentathlon?

modern pentanlon

The modern pentathlon is made up of five very unique skill sets that are mentally and physically exhausting. It debuted for the first time in the modern Olympic Games in Sweden, in 1912. But why is it still held?

It is inspired by a French legend, where the competition consisted of five skills including fencing, swimming, pistol shooting, running and horse riding. Since then, the modern pentathlon has been featured at the Summer Olympics with certain improvements and advances. Most notable is the implementation of Laser-Run, which combines pistol shooting and running.


The modern pentathlon is a sport that has been in development for thousands of years. Since Ancient Greece, the pentathlon was one of the most anticipated events of the Olympic Games. During this time, the competition featured five different disciplines: running, jumping, wrestling, discus, and javelin throwing.

However, in the XNUMXth century, a French soldier was commissioned to carry a message over a considerable distance. Legend has it that he had to ride a horse, fight with one back, swim, run and use a weapon to complete his journey. Thanks to this legend the modern pentathlon was born.

The modern pentathlon is a individual sport, so there are no positions and roles depending on the abilities of the athletes. However, modern pentathlon was available for some time as a team sport, but was stopped in this form in 1996. The only types of roles that are played are different competitions, as they require different skills and training.

This sport presents a unique challenge from multiple disciplines to determine strength, determination, stamina and fearless skills. The first three events determine the head start or time behind the leader for the shooting race event. So in the first three sports, the athletes focus on doing what they can to get higher scores.

Also, if an athlete tends to have trouble shooting or running, they should make sure they perform at their best in the first three events to make up for the run. It currently has more than 120 member countries.

modern pentanlon fencing

Sports that form it

Since this competition is the combination of several sports, the playing surface for the modern pentathlon cannot be defined in a single area. In fact, each discipline requires its own environment.


The fencing is carried out on a special field or track of 1 or 5 meters in length. Protective clothing is required to compete, including gloves, jacket, pants, fencing shoes, mask, and chest and back protectors.

All competitors compete in a round-robin format, whereby all athletes face each other at least once. Fencing matches last just one minute, and the athlete with the most wins gets the most points.

Regarding the rules, in épée fencing, the épée (foil) cannot have a curve of more than 1 centimeter. Fencers may only strike after the order to play and before the order to stop. If an infraction is committed, there will be a sanction.


It takes place in an Olympic pool and requires the use of a swimming cap, suit and goggles. Competitors are ranked by time and compete over 200 meters in a freestyle swim. Some of the fastest complete the distance in less than 2 minutes.

In swimming, the initial immersion under water cannot last more than 15 meters. Also, the swimmer must be above the water after that distance. In this sport, resistance is key and training is easier. To swim better, it will be necessary to swim a lot.

Horse riding

It competes on a terrain with jumping, extensions and vertical jumps. To practice it you need the stirrups, the halters, the reins, the bit and the breastplates. It is important to wear the appropriate clothing.

During show jumping, riders are presented with a random horse with which they have 20 minutes to get acquainted. The athletes then lead the horse on a course of between 350 and 400 meters, which normally includes 12 jumps.

Laser-Run (shot and run)

It requires a field with 10 meters of distance between the targets to shoot for each athlete. It is performed on a running track and spiked running shoes are required.

The athletes run four laps of 800 meters and make four stops for the shot. Those who get the most points in this competition start first. The first athlete to cross the finish line wins.

In the shooting race, athletes must shoot at their own target and cannot start running before the minimum shooting time has elapsed.

running in modern pentanlon

Differences with the old pentathlon

The first pentathlon dates back to the year 708 BC. It appeared in the Ancient Olympic Games in Greece. During this time, the pentathlon included running, spear throwing, discus, vaulting, and wrestling. Since ancient times, the pentathlon has gone through many different phases from other varieties of disciplines, including the standing long jump, sprints, javelin throw, and long-distance running.

It is Baron de Coubertin who is credited with introducing the modern version of the sport, as we said above.

Today, the entire competition is usually completed in a single day. In the past, the five different events were spread over five separate days. So athletes were given enough time to recover and prepare for the next event. Nowadays, the competition has become more beneficial for the spectators, since they have compressed all events in one day. This has made the modern pentathlon event more exciting and impressive from a spectator's point of view.

The women's competition was introduced at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. The discipline has long been dominated by European countries, particularly Hungary and Sweden, with the latter taking 13 of the 15 available medals between the 1912 Stockholm and 1932 Los Angeles Games.

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