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What Is Modern Pentathlon?

4th Aug 21

When it comes to global events such as the Olympics, there are so many different sports and disciplines to choose from, and one of them is Modern Pentathlon. But what is Modern Pentathlon? It is an event made up of five smaller events in which each athlete must be confident. It starts with fencing, moves into a 200m freestyle swim, equestrian show jumping and finishes with a final combined event of pistol shooting and cross country running. Crazy, right? You couldn’t pick five more random events.

The thing is, it is the perfect event for anyone who likes a bit of variety in their competitions. So we’re here to break the Modern Pentathlon down so that you can understand it more…

Want to move fast? Jump to the right section below.

  1. Fencing
  2. Freestyle Swimming
  3. Equestrian Show Jumping
  4. Laser-Run: Pistol Shooting & Cross Country Running

1. Fencing

The Modern Pentathlon starts with fencing with epée swords. In this event, each competitor must participate in a one-minute match against every other competitor in the event. To win your match, you must be the first to score a ‘hit’ within the minute against your opponent and each hit is converted into points. The competitor with the most points wins the fencing round.

2. Freestyle Swimming

The swimming section of the event is a 200m freestyle race. All of the points are calculated based on the competitors personal best time at the end of the swim. In the men’s race, a time of 2 minutes 30 seconds is equal to 1,000 points in the event. For women, a time of 2 minutes 40 seconds equals 1,000 points. Every tenth of a second above or below, this either increases or decreases your score at the end of this leg of the event.

3. Equestrian Show Jumping

Next in the Modern Pentathlon is the equestrian show jumping. Here the competitor must jump over 12 hurdles in a specific time limit and with as few mistakes as possible. They must include at least one double and one triple jump, and the points are calculated based on the athlete with the fewest mistakes and the fastest time. For example, a perfect ride within the set time limit could award you around 1,200 points.

The difference between this version of show jumping and general showjumping is that the athlete gets given a horse at random shortly before the event begins. This means they cannot use a horse they know or have trained with, adding that extra difficulty and making the event more exciting.

4. Laser-Run: Pistol Shooting & Cross Country Running

As of the 2012 Olympics, pistol shooting and cross country running are combined events referred to as a laser-run. It is the last part of the Modern Pentathlon, and the points gained in the first three events dictate where the athletes start in the final two events. Each point equals a time advantage; for example, 1 point = 1 second of extra time. The athlete with the most points sets off first, and the rest following suit depending on their individual score. Meaning you either have to rack up good points in the first three events or make up the time at the end.

Competitors must run 800m. At four intervals, they must also complete four shooting sets. These sets are made up of five targets hit from a distance of 10m with a 50 seconds time limit. This adds the challenge of the athlete having to ensure they keep a good speed to be able to catch their breath so they can shoot quickly and calmly.

The Modern Pentathlon might look like a mismatch of sports that don’t really fit together, but it is a great challenge for anyone who likes a bit of variety. Baron de Coubertin invented the modern Pentathlon in the 19th Century. He believed that it was a sport that would test “a man’s moral qualities as much as his physical resources and skills, producing thereby the ideal, complete athlete”. So what do you think? Do you have what it takes to complete the Modern Pentathlon?

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