After last week’s introduction to Handball, it’s time to delve into another slightly alternative Olympic sport. Modern Pentathlon is an event that that most of us are aware of but very few know the exact make up of this great multidisciplinary sport. We hope to change all that and turn you into Modern Pentathlon expert.
The modern pentathlon was invented by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic games. The initial aim of the sport was to test competitors in 5 skills that a soldier would require if caught behind enemy lines: riding an unfamiliar horse (Showjumping), fight with a pistol (10 metre pistol shooting) and sword (fencing), swim (200m freestyle), and run (3km cross country). So that will hopefully give you a different perspective when you watch the Modern Pentathletes compete later this Summer!
Men’s Modern Pentathlon has been a part of the Games since 1912 with the women’s event being added fairly recently at the Sydney Games. Modern Pentathlon’s eclectic mix of events all take place on one day meaning the competitors have to quickly adapt from sport to sport with little time to draw breath. Much like the Decathlon and Heptathlon athletes are vying for points rather than trying to beat their direct opponents, until the final event where the first to cross the line wins gold.
Fencing: The event gets underway with Fencing, which takes the form of a round robin tournament where each competitor ‘duels’ against every other competitor in one minute rounds. Top Pentathletes will be looking to win at least 75% of their duels.
Swimming: Next up, the athletes head to the pool and do a 200m freestyle race, with 2 minutes 30 being the standard time. Points are then awarded, and taken away, for times below and over that time.
Showjumping: After that challenging swim the Pentathletes take on the Showjumping section of the event, where they have to negotiate 15 obstacles with a horse they have met 20 minutes previously- pretty tough!
Running and shooting (not at the same time!): The final section combines running and shooting, and sees the competitors starting in order of points scored with a handicap of one second for every 4 points they are behind the leader. The Pentathletes have to run to the shooting range, successfully hit 5 targets in 70 seconds and then run 1km, they repeat this 3 times and then cross the finish line- quite a day!
Obviously, given the range and types of sports that make up Modern Pentathlon, it is a little harder than other sports to get into but there are ways round that! The range of sports may seem intimidating but as PentathlonGB point out that most of their elite athletes came from single sport events, so it can easily be done. For more information on how to get started PentathlonGB offer a great FAQ guide here.
Team GB has historically performed very well in the event (4 medals in 3 games) and go into London with a strong chance of medalling in both the women’s and men’s discipline. The men have world number 5 Nick Woodbridge and European silver medalist, and the Women’s team is headed up by European championships bronze medalist, Samantha Murray. The Modern Pentathlon will take place on the 11th August and takes in 3 different venues; the Aquatics centre, the Copper box and finally the Greenwich park. If the sound of this has tickled your fancy there are still tickets available here. In more good news for those who are intrigued by the sport PentathalonGB, in association with BT are running a ‘come and try it’ event in London during the games, more info here.
Olympic small talk Fact: The original Pentathlon which took place in ancient Greece included stadion foot race (nude running!), wrestling, long jump, javelin, and discus.