Which events comprise the modern pentathlon?

Of course, the modern pentathlon is only ‘modern’ in the sense that it exists in the modern era. It is, in fact, the successor to the original pentathlon, which was a feature of the ancient Olympic Games, staged in Olympia, Greece until the fourth century. The international governing body of modern pentathlon, the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), was founded in London in 1848 and the event was introduced to the Olympic programme at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm.

Like its predecessor, the modern pentathlon was modelled on the essential skills needed by a soldier of the day – that is, the nineteenth century – so, while no less demanding, physically or mentally, the event is no longer as pertinent as was once the case. Nevertheless, the modern pentathlon consists of five disciplines – namely swimming, fencing, riding, running and shooting – in which athletes complete in a single day.

Swimming takes the form of a 200-metre freestyle event and is followed by fencing, in which athletes are ranked, by means of a round-robin, before competing in a seeded elimination, or knockout, in which an additional poimt is available for each victory. Show jumping, on an unfamiliar horse drawn, by lot, shortly before the start of the competition, follows, after which the points from the first three events are tallied to determine starting positions for the final event of the day, known as laser run.

Laser run combines the disciplines of running and shooting. Athletes race over four 800-metre circuits, interspersed with four rounds of laser pistol shooting, during which they must shoot at five targets from a range of 10 metres, within a 50-second time-limit if they wish to compete for a medal. The leading athlete from the first three events starts first, with the remainder starting at staggered intervals, corresponding to the number of points they are behind. The first athlete to finish wins the entire competition.

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