While the pentathlon
itself dates back to ancient Greece
and included running
the pentathlon that is part of the Summer Olympics
today has three
very modern sports in comparison
The pentathlon (both ancient and modern) are based on military
discipline of the time. The ancient one was used by the Spartans
as a method for training soldiers. The modern version is similar
and was inspired similarly. Baron Pierre de Coubertin,
the founder of the Modern Olympics
saw the pentathlon as a way to "help world relations, insure peace,
if soldiers could participate in friendly competition." He failed
at having the ancient pentathlon added but later succeeded with the
modern pentathlon. The modern pentathlon has been used at a number
of military academies as part of the final examination.
The modern pentathlon was first held at the Stockholm Games in 1912
and included five events:
Women were introduced to the modern pentathlon in the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
This sport has classically been dominated by the Swiss and the only
person to give them a run for their money in the first half of the
century was by a U.S. army lieutenant named George Patton (unfortunately
he didn't place (finished 5th) because he scored very poorly in comparison
on the shooting event).
Originally the scoring for the pentathlon was determined by the placement
of an athlete in each event (I assume lowest sum of the of the placements
took the gold, second lowest silver, etc...). After 1956 the event became
more similar to that of the decathlon with a point scale for each event.
- An air pistol at 10 meters, 20 shots slow fire.
Shooting 172 is worth 1000 points. Each point above or below 172
is 12 points. The target is 8"x11" with 11 concentric rings. The
outermost ring is worth 1 point and the inner two most rings are
worth 10 points. Bullseyes are used to separate ties.
- Epee event in a round robin. The 1000 point score is obtained for
winning 70% of the possible bouts. Each victory above or below the 70%
mark is worth 28 points in individual and 12 points for team relay. There
is a minimum number of 20 bouts.
- 200 meters freestyle. A time of 2:30 for men and 2:40 for women
receives 1000 points. Each third of a second is worth 4 points.
- 15 obstacles over 400 meter course. The riding event has a 1200 point maximum. Each athlete starts with 1100 points and penalties of knocking down a fence (-30), refusing a jump (-40) and fall (-60) are deducted from this. A jump out of order, backwards or failing to cross a checkpoint (start line, finish line or gate) will eliminate the rider. Each second over or under 2:18 is worth 3 points. It is important to note that the horses are unfamiliar ones to the athletes though they have 20 minutes and 5 practices fences to get acquainted with the horse.
- 3000 meters cross-country (see 3000 meter run). The start is staggered such that the first person to cross the finish line is the winner overall. For men a time of 10:00 receives 1000 points and for women the time is 11:20. Each half a second is worth 2 points.
It should be noted that the age range on the modern pentathlon is
fairly wide compared to that of many other sports. This sport contains
events that are both physically demanding (running and swimming), however
also put a great deal of emphasis upon mental skill with shooting, riding
and fencing. Athletes often compete in three or four Olympics - a range
of 12 to 16 years.
At the Olympics, between 1912 and 1980, the pentathlon was held over
5 days with one event each day. Between 1984 and 1992 shooting was
doubled up with either running or swimming. In 1996 the entire
competition was a grueling one-day event. On non-Olympic years,
the World Championship is held.
A variant of the Pentathlon exists which contains only swimming and
running (known as the summer biathlon):
- Running 1,400 meters
- Swimming 100 meters
- Running 100 meters
This was created as a more interesting spectator sport
and removing the
emphasis from the European
nature of fencing and riding. This sport
was created in 1999.