Greek Olympic Games Pentathlon

The Pentathlon (consisting of running the length of the stadium, jumping, throwing the spear, throwing the discus and wrestling) was introduced for the first time at the 18th Olympiad in 708 BC and held a position of unique importance in the Games. It was considered to be the climax, with the winner ranked as “Victor Ludorum”.

Admiration for the Ancient Pentathlon was fully shared by the founder of the Modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin and from 1909 he tried to have the event re-introduced into the Olympic programme. Pentathlon’s moment came two years later at the 14th session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Budapest (HUN) when, as the Baron stated: “the Holy Ghost of sport illuminated my colleagues and they accepted a competition to which I attach great importance.”

Modern Pentathlon Brief History

The Modern Pentathlon, introduced at the 5th Olympiad in Stockholm (SWE) in 1912, comprised the contemporary sports of pistol shooting, fencing, swimming, horse riding and running, and embraced the spirit of its ancient counterpart. It was De Coubertin’s belief that it would be this event, above all others, that "tested a man’s moral qualities as much as his physical resources and skills, producing thereby the ideal, complete athlete.” This new sport was enthusiastically adopted with its inherent demands of courage, co-ordination, physical fitness, self-discipline and flexibility in ever changing circumstances. A young American Lieutenant, later to be the famous 2nd World War General George S. Patton, was to finish fifth in the first ever Olympic Modern Pentathlon competition. The mixture of physical and mental skills demanded in the Pentathlon has also meant that athletes have been able to compete in as many as three or four Olympic Games. This is because while running and swimming times can be expected to decline with age, experience and skill in the technical disciplines often increase.

USA Pentathlon Puts 5 Athletes In World Cup Final

On Mother's Day weekend, 5-8 May, 5 athletes will be competing for Team USA in the World Cup Final in Sarasota, Florida as they try and accumulate enough points to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games. Nathan Schrimsher has already qualified for the Rio Olympic Games and Margaux Isaksen appears to already have enough points to qualify for the Games. Joining them in Sarasota will be Nathan's younger brother Lucas, Margaux's younger sister Isabella and Samantha Achterberg all of whom are in a good position to qualify. In Modern Pentathlon, every country is allowed a maximum of two male and two female athletes.

Modern Pentathlon Events

Epée Fencing

Fencing is a series of one-touch bouts with epée swords. Unchanged since 1912, the fencing event of modern pentathlon is a round-robin tournament, with a single touch deciding each match. The fencing event is held in an indoor arena on special strips (pistes) measuring 14m long and between 1.5m and 2m wide. Each competitor has a bout against every other competitor. Bouts last for one minute, the winner being the first fencer to score a hit. If neither scores a hit, both competitors register a defeat. If competitors hit one another within 0.04 of a second (a double hit), neither hit is registered. Point penalties are awarded for a variety of infringements including hitting the epée on anything other than the opponent to register a hit, crossing the boundary line with both feet or to avoid a hit, dangerous play and when a fencer turns their back on the opponent. 70 % bouts won corresponds to 1000 Pentathlon points. Each win is called a victory and each loss a defeat. Each victory over or under the 70% mark is worth a specific point value and this number is in accordance with the number of competitors:

22-23 matches gives +/-40 points

24-26 matches gives +/-36 points

27-29 matches gives +/-32 points

30-33 matches gives +/-28 points

34-39 matches gives +/-24 points

Example: 36 competitions (the number of athletes in a final) means 35 bouts, 70% of 35 bouts = 25 victories = 1000 points, 23 victories are therefore worth 952 Pentathlon points/


Pentathletes usually have a swimming background, which is considered to be the only pentathlon discipline that cannot be taught at a higher level at an older age. For this reason, good swimming standards are considered to be a “precondition” for participation in Modern Pentathlon. The swimming event is a freestyle race over 200m for men and women with athletes seeded in heats according to their personal best time. A time of 2:30 earns 1000 Pentathlon points. Every 0.33 seconds is worth +/- 4 points and thus the value of each swimming second is worth 12 points. Example: the time 2:32.66 minutes corresponds to 968 points. Forty point penalties are incurred for a false start, failing to touch the wall at the end of a lap or leaving the pool in an incorrect manner as stipulated in the rules.

Riding- Equestrian Show Jumping

The riding even (equestrian show jumping) included in the Modern Pentathlon competition involves jumping over obstacles of up to 120cm in height. The obstacle course is between 335-450m in length and includes 12 obstacles with one double and one triple, for 15 jumps. Athletes compete on horses provided by the organisers, which are selected from a random draw. For warm-up and preparation purposes, athletes are allowed to ride their allocated horse for 20 minutes and to have up to 5 trial jumps in the warm-up arena provided for the purpose. Pentathletes are given 20mins to inspect the course at any time during the competition programme according to the organiser’s schedule. The athlete has a specific time limit in which to complete the course, and the time limit is set according to its length. A clear round in time allowed (varies between 1 minute and 1.17 minutes) gives the rider 1200 pentathlon points. For each mistake the rider loses points. Examples of penalties given are 28 points for knock-down and 40 points for every refusal or disobedience: but any disobedience leading to the knocking down of an obstacle gives 60 points deduction. After 2 refusals to jump, the rider must try to jump the next obstacle. For ever obstacle not jumped, the rider loses 200 points. A fall of the rider from the horse or if they both fall is a 40 point penalty. After 2 falls the riding will be terminated and the rider will have a further 300 points deducted. Each second over the time limit means a deduction of 4 points. The maximum time is the standard time +75 seconds. If the rider is slower than the maximum time allowed, the riding is terminated and the rider given minus 240 points and also a deduction of 80 points per obstacle not jumped. Riders must stay between the flags marking the course and must jump the obstacles in order. Riders must wear protective head-gear and a rising jacket and can use a whip and spurs: but hoods and blinkers are prohibited.

Combined (shoot/run)

In 2008, the UIPM Congress passed a motion to change the competition format of the Modern Pentathlon to combine the shoot and run disciplines. This is now known as the “combined event” and is the final event of the day’s competition. In the individual competition for men and women at Senior, Junior and Youth A levels, athletes start with a handicap start, approx. 20m run, to a shooting range where they are required to hit 5 Targets down (time limit 1’10”) before beginning a 1000m run. This is repeated 2 further times for a total of 15 targets and 3,000m run. Two thousand (2000) Pentathlon points are awarded for a time of 14 minutes. Each second faster or slower than the prescribed time is worth +/-4 points.

The combined event is also included in relay competitions in teams of 2 or 3 pentathletes. However, the format differs slightly in that only 2 series of the course are repeated (5 Targets down (time limit 1’10”); 1000m run; 5 Targets down (time limit 1’10”); 1000m run) for each of the pentathletes. For team of 3 athletes, 2000 points are awarded for a time 28.00. Each second faster or slower than the prescribed time is worth +/-4 points. For team of 2 athletes, 2000 points are awarded for a time 19.00. Each second faster or slower than the prescribed time is worth +/-4 points.

Within the combined event the shooting takes place with any 4.5mm calibre compressed or CO2 single shot air pistol, fired at a target from a distance of 10 metres. The Shooting competition is in 3 series; each series consists of hitting 5 targets with an unlimited number of shots in a maximum time of 1’10” on a target of dimension 59.5mm. If after 1’10” one or more targets have not been hit, the pentathlete can start on the running leg without being penalised. Only after having hit 5 targets using an unlimited number of shots in the time limit of 1’10”, can the pentathlete start from the shooting station to perform the first running leg of 1000m. After the first leg, the pentathletes return to their shooting stations, where they must reset their target, (only the pentathlete is authorised to reset their target) and then start the second shooting series that consists of hitting 5 targets using a unlimited number of shots but in the time limit of 1’10”. The pentathlete repeats the same procedure for the second shooting series and second running leg of 1000m. After the third shooting series the pentathletes perform the third and final running leg of 1000m to the finish line.

The combined event uses electronic targets which consist of one black single aim and 5 green/red lamps indicators. The targets separate the Shooting zone (target) and indicators. The standard target dimension is 250mm diameter circle. The target valid zone is 59.5mm.