Modern Pentathlon - Pentathlon Event - Olympic Pentathlon

An athletic event comprising of five events Discus throw, Javelin, long jump, foot race and wrestling.

Modern Pentathlon opposed to this comprises of Pistol Shooting, Fencing, Swimming, Riding & Running.


Pentathlon is a composite athletic event, encompassing target shooting, fencing, swimming, equestrian Show Jumping and cross-country running. Pentathlon games are an optimum blend of an athlete’s strength, skill, timing, endurance and determination. Each contestant must participate in all five sporting events, one after the other in order to win the pentathlon.

Pentathlon History

Ancient Greek Pentathlon, a primitive version of the modern day pentathlon was introduced during 708 BC. The sport comprised five games - Discus, Javelin, long jump, foot race and wrestling. Discus, Javelin and Long jump were categorized solely as pentathlon events and were generally not played as individual sports. These games were a test of a participant’s strength and timing.

  • The discus throw area was very small and barely sufficient for an individual to stand erect. The discus to be thrown weighed around 14 pounds, 10 ounces.
  • The ancient Greek javelin was 6 feet long and as thick as a finger. It was made of wood and contained a metal point at the end. A throw strap was wrapped in the middle to provide the participants a better grip.
  • Long jump was accompanied by carrying weights. Contestants carried stone or metal weights of four to eight pounds during long jumps.
  • There were four categories of foot races.
    • ‘ Stade’ – 200 yards race
    • ‘ Diaulos’ and ‘Hoplitodromos’ – Known as race in armor, 400 yards long
    • ‘Dolichos’ – Races that ranged between 7-24 stades, although they averaged at 20 stades.
  • In wrestling, the opponents grappled each other to the ground without striking. Participants rubbed themselves in oil and power/dust to get a good grip. Wrestling was categorized into three groups – boys, youth and men.

Pentathlon was an entirely men’s event until women participation began around the late 1970s. The first women’s world championship was played in the year 1980. Modern pentathlon games are single day sporting events that embrace five different sports, played one after the other in the predetermined sequence. Each game is designed to test the contestant’s skill, dexterity, focus and agility. Accurate timing and precision is fundamental to the sport.

Modern Pentathlon Events

Modern pentathlon originated from the military and was a test of the officers’ courage, co-ordination, physical fitness, self-discipline and flexibility. The pentathlon games initially lasted for five days with one event contested each day. In 1984, it was made a four-day event, with both pistol shooting and cross-country run conducted on the fourth and final day. Since 1996, the pentathlon is held as a single day event with all five events contested one after another. Modern pentathlon games are scored on a scale of 1000 points for the prescribed time. For any amount of time taken beyond or below the prescribed time, the prescribed point limit is reduced or added to the initial start up points.

  • Pistol Shooting – The range of the target is 10 meters and contestants generally use a big bore standard rifle. Each contestant is allowed 20 shots within a time period of 40 seconds. The target is a stationary concentric ring 155 mm in diameter. An optimum pentathlon score is 172 out of 200 that gives the contestant 1000 pentathlon points. The shooting targets are changed after each shot. The shooting program is 5 sighting shots in 5 minutes, 10 shots precision fired in 10 minutes and 10 rapid-fire shots in 1 minute. 12 pentathlon points are gained for every target point above 172 whereas 12 pentathlon points are reduced for every target point below 172.

  • Fencing – For fencing matches, epee swords are used and the target is the opponent’s entire body. Scoring is done through electronic tips at the end of each sword. Either contestant has to achieve one hit per minute, else it is registered as defeat for both.

  • Swimming – Participants have to cover a distance of over 200 m in free-style. The favorable time limits in order to gain 1000 pentathlon points are 2 minutes 30 seconds for men and 2 minutes 40 seconds for women. Every 3/10 seconds above or below this time will result in a subtraction or addition of 4 points.

  • Riding – Show jumping obstacles is the most challenging among all pentathlon events since the contestants ride unfamiliar horses that are randomly picked by lots. The riding track is 350-400m in length and the obstacles may be up to 120 cm high and 130 cm wide. Each participant is entitled 5 practice fences. Riding competitions start with 1,100 points. A rider loses 30, 40 or 60 points respectively for every knockdown, disobedience to jump and fall off from the horse.

  • Running – Pentathlon running is a 3,000m cross-country/road course for both men and women. The regular score is 100 points within 10 minutes for men and 11 minutes 20 seconds for women. For every half-second above or below this standard, the contestant gains or loses 2 points.

Olympic Pentathlon

Modern pentathlon games were introduced in the 1912 Olympics. Initially only army officers participated in modern pentathlon games and they were a test of military skills among the military academies. The credit for the Olympic pentathlon goes to Baron Pierre de Coubertin, chief founder of modern Olympic games. Women’s pentathlon was introduced in the 20 Olympic games. Olympic pentathlon games initially comprised: -

  • 5000-meter cross-country ride
  • 300 meters swimming
  • 4,000 meters cross-country running
  • 22-caliber pistol shot from 25 meters at moving target.

Pentathlon World Championships

The pentathlon world championships are played each non-Olympic year. The championships are held for men and women participants as well as for junior contestants (boys and girls 17-18 years). Pentathlon World Championships include an additional event – Team Relay. 16 teams of 3 contestants each participate in the continuous relay. Each team member contributes individual scores –

  • Firing – 10 shots per participants.
  • Swimming – 100 meters
  • Fencing – one member from opposite team.
  • Riding – 8 show jumps per participant.

The pentathlon world championship is conducted in three stages.

  • Qualifying stage for male and female contestants.
  • Semifinals for individual competition
  • Finals for individual competition and Team Relay competition.

Thirty-two best competitors qualify for the finals. Both Individual and team winners are awarded medals.

The 2007 pentathlon World Ranking:

Men’s Pentathlon World Ranking

Moiseev Ndrei RUS 1
Krungolcas Edvinas LTU 2
Walther Eric GER 3
Berrou Jean Maxence FRA 4
Balogh Gabor HUN 5

Women’s Pentathlon World Ranking

Mouratova Tatiana RUS 1
Livingston Katie GBR 2
Fell Heather GBR 3
Czwojdzinska Sylvia POL 4
Mazurkevich Tatsiana BLR 5

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