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Modern Pentathlon

An Olympic sport since Stockholm 1912, the modern pentathlon is based on the story of a 19th century French soldier riding his horse through enemy lines to deliver a message.

To get his message to it's destination, the soldier faced a steely duel, had his horse shot from under him and was then forced to run and swim to reach his goal.

Modern pentathletes therefore compete in five events to test their endurance and athletic versatility: shooting, fencing, swimming, show-jumping and running their way to gold.

In the Olympic Games of Ancient Greece, the Pentathlon consisted of running the length of the stadium, jumping, throwing a spear, discus and wrestling.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle is quoted as stating: The most perfect sportsmen, therefore, are the Pentathletes because in their bodies strength and speed are combined in beautiful harmony.

Modern Pentathlon - Olympic Competition

Sweden dominated the first modern pentathlon events collecting 13 of the first 15 medals; a German won bronze in Amsterdam 1928 and an American won bronze in Los Angeles 1932.

The team event ran from Melbourne 1956 to Barcelona 1992, but was dropped at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.

There are currently two events in the Modern Pentathlon: men's and women's individual competitions, with women pentathletes making their first appearance at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Previously held over four to five days, the modern pentathlon has been a one-day event since the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, with women competing one day and men the next.


Pentathletes have 40 seconds to fire 20 shots from an air pistol at a at a target of 155 mm in diameter, from 10 metres.

Points range from 1 point on the outer ring to 10 points for a bullseye, with rings one to six on a white background and rings seven to ten on a black background.

A score of 172 out of a possible 200 is worth 1,000 Pentathlon points. Every target point above or below 172 is worth plus or minus 12 pentathlon points.


This is a round-robin competition where the pentathletes fence every other competitor with épée swords in a series of one hit bouts lasting a minute.

The target area is the whole body and hits are registered via an electronic tip at the end of the sword. If no hit is scored, within the time, both athletes will be declared losers.

If a competitor wins 70% of their bouts they earn 1,000 pentahlon points. There's an increase or decrease in points for achieving more or less than this.


A 200m freestyle race, with athletes seeded in heats according to their personal best times.

A time of 2 minutes 30 seconds for men and 2 minutes 40 seconds for women earns 1,000 pentathlon points.

Every three tenths of a second above or below this time is equal to plus or minus four points.

Show Jumping

Pentathletes receive their horse for the competition by drawing lots and have 20 minutes to get the feel of the horse before riding over show-jumping obstacles of up to 120cm in height and 150cm in spread; including one double and one triple.

Each athlete starts with 1,200 points and lose points for mistakes or exceeding the time limit.

28 points are lost for knockdowns, 40 points for a refusal to jump, 40 points for falling off and 4 points per second for being over the standard time.

If the round takes longer than double the standard time, the athlete is eliminated and scores no points.


It's a 3,000m chase to the finish, with pentathletes setting off on the run at intervals, which correspond in seconds to the pentathlon points difference between themselves and the athlete in front; so that the first person across the line takes the gold.

Modern Pentathlon - Olympic Greats

Lars Hall, of Sweden, was the first non-military winner of the modern pentathlon.

Hall followed his gold at the Helsinki 1952 Olympic Games with another gold medal in Melbourne 1956; to become the first repeat winner of the modern pentathlon.

With cross-country running being his best event, Hungarian András Balczó won a total of five Olympic medals in the modern pentathlon: team gold at the Rome 1960 and Mexico City 1968 Olympics; individual silver at Mexico City 1968; and at Munich 1972, he won the individual gold medal and team silver.

Olympic Sports

Aquatics in the Summer Olympics Archery in the Summer Olympics Athletics in the Summer Olympics Badminton in the Summer Olympics Baseball in the Summer Olympics Basetball in the Summer Olympics Boxing in the Summer Olympics Canoeing in the Summer Olympics Cycling in the Summer Olympics Equestrian in the Summer Olympics Fencing in the Summer Olympics Football in the Summer Olympics Gymnastics in the Summer Olympics Handball in the Summer Olympics
Hockey in the Summer Olympics Judo in the Summer Olympics Pentathlon in the Summer Olympics Rowing in the Summer Olympics Sailing in the Summer Olympics Shooting in the Summer Olympics Softball in the Summer Olympics Table-Tennis in the Summer Olympics Taekwondo in the Summer Olympics Tennis in the Summer Olympics Triathlon in the Summer Olympics Volleyball in the Summer Olympics Weightlifting in the Summer Olympics Wrestling in the Summer Olympics

Modern Pentathlon Links

Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne,
Avenue des Castellans, Stade Louis II, 98000 Monaco.

National Federations

British Columbia Modern Pentathlon Association.

British Pentathlon:
The Association, as the recognised governing body for the sport of Modern Pentathlon in Great Britain and Northern Ireland recognises the need to make provision for the development of the sport of Modern Pentathlon within each of the home countries.

Deutscher Verband für Modernen Fünfkampf: (Germany).

Federaçăo Gaúcha de Pentatlo Moderno: (Brazil).

Federazione Italiana Pentathlon Moderno: (Italy).

Magyar Öttusa Szövetség: (Hungary).

Modern Femkamp: (Sweden).

Modern Pentathlon Australia:
MPA was set up to raise the profile of modern pentathlon in Australia and implement an effective administration infrastructure to support the athletes, officials, members, sponsors and spectators.

Moderne Vijfkamp: (Holland).

Österreicher Verband für Modernen Fünfkampf: (Austria).

Pentathlon Suisse: (Switzerland).

Scotish Pentathlon:
The official web site for the Scottish Modern Pentathlon Association.

Slovenský Zväz Moderného Pätboja: (Slovenia).

Suomen Nykyaikaisen 5-ottelun Liitto: (Finland).

US Pentathlon.

Further Reading

Modern Pentathlon:
A guide to modern pentathlon from running-shoes-online.


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