The modern pentathlon is based on the pentathlon that was part of the ancient Olympic Games. It was introduced by Baron Pierre de Coubertin in 1912.

There is a men's pentathlon and a women's pentathlon. 

Both have five events on one day. Competitors score points in the first three events, which decide their starting position for the final combined event, composed of the shooting and running events.  The first athlete over the line wins the gold medal.

  • The pentathletes fence using the epee. (a sword with a stiff blade)

  • They swim 200 metres.

  • Using a laser pistol they shoot 20 times at a target 10 metres away.

The cross-country run is over rough terrain. © Getty Images

The cross-country run is over rough terrain. © Getty Images

  • They run 3,000 metres cross-country.

  • They ride a horse around a 350 - 440 metre course. There are 12 -15 obstacles, such as a fence, a gate, or a water jump, that each horse and rider must jump over.

Modern pentathlon events. ©iStock

Modern pentathlon events. ©iStock

History of the modern pentathlon

There was a Pentathlon event in the ancient Olympic Games from 708 B.C.  Pentathletes competed in 5 events: discus, javelin, long jump, a stadium-length race and wrestling.

Modern pentathlon has been an Olympic event since 1912. At first it was held over 5 days. But changed to be a one day event, which was more exciting for spectators.

Modern Pentathlon is based on the idea that a soldier is delivering a message, on horseback, but on the way is forced to fight a duel with an enemy soldier using a sword. He escapes, but later has to shoot his way to safety with his pistol, then swim across a river and run the last 4000 metres to complete his mission.

Since 2012 athletes use a laser pistol instead of a traditional pellet-firing air gun. It is safer!

For more information about this Olympic sport go here. There’s a video too.