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Modern pentathlon cut from 5 to 4 events

Nov. 25, 2008, 5:57 p.m. (ET)

MONTE CARLO, Monaco(AP) Modern pentathlon has been cut from five events to four in a bid to boost its popularity and stay in the Olympics.

The International Modern Pentathlon Union voted to combine pistol shooting and running into one discipline to create a shorter and more dynamic competition.

Klaus Schormann, president of the governing body, described the recent decision at the group's annual meeting in Guatemala as ``one of the biggest in the history of modern pentathlon.'' The new format takes effect Jan. 1.

Modern pentathlon has been criticized for its lack of international appeal and domination by Eastern Europeans.

It has been in the Olympics since 1912 and was designed by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern games, to test an ideal soldier's skills. Competitors must shoot, fence, swim for 200 meters, ride a horse that is unknown to them over a showjumping course and run 3,000 meters.

At the Olympics in Beijing, the five events were spread out over three venues, requiring lengthy breaks between them. The women's competition took about 12 hours to complete.

Shooting and running will now be combined in a fourth and final discipline. The starting order of the final event is determined by the points accumulated after the first three, so the leading competitors get a head start. The overall winner is the first to cross the finish line.

Now, athletes should be able to ride horses, shoot and run at the same venue. The idea is to make the event easier for fans to follow.

``I think that's a good idea conceptually,'' said American Eli Bremer, who competed at the Beijing Games. ``My concern is, logistically, it becomes more difficult to put on a competition.''

The new format requires a shooting range to be constructed in close proximity to where the athletes run. Competitors will shoot, then run for a bit, then shoot some more, then resume running in a sequence similar to the biathlon, which involves shooting and cross-country skiing.

Previously, the shooting event in the modern pentathlon was self-contained. Athletes shot at targets and tried to earn points before taking a break and moving on to fencing. Now competitors must pause to shoot during the run.

Bremer says he'll need to use new equipment.

``The guns we use are really designed only for indoor shooting,'' Bremer said. ``They're also designed for slow fire. Essentially this is a rapid-fire type of event.''

Joachim Sacksen, a board member for USA Pentathlon, says the new format might move the sport closer to its original ideal by removing some of the time between events.

``It was supposed to be a continual, fluid competition,'' Sacksen said.

This is not the first attempt make the sport more attractive to spectators and television viewers.

For the 1996 Atlanta Games, when only men took part, the competition was cut from four or five days to one day. Women have competed since the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

At this year's Beijing Olympics, the gold medals were won by Russia's Andrey Moiseev and Germany's Lena Schoeneborn.

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