Modern pentathlon has a long history, first appearing at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm. It is a sport that requires the most varied skill set in its athletes. Modern pentathlon consists of five disciplines which are competed in this order: fencing, swimming, riding (equestrian jumping) and a combined running (Cross-Country) and pistol shooting event. London 2012 was the first Olympic Games in which the running and shooting portions were combined.
Here is a rundown of the finer points of the four events:
• Fencing: A round robin épée tournament consists of one-hit matches no longer than one minute. If no hit is scored, both competitors register a defeat. The target area is the whole body. A rough estimate of points goes as such: an athlete who wins 70% of the matches accumulates 1,000 points.
• Swimming: This is a 200-metre freestyle race, with pentathletes seeded in heats according to personal best times. A time of two minutes, 30 seconds for men and two minutes or 40 seconds for women earns 1,000 points. Every third of a second above or below this time is equal to plus or minus four points.
• Riding: Riders have 20 minutes and five practice fences to familiarize themselves with their horses (provided by event organizers). The course is 350 to 450 metres long with 12 show-jumping obstacles, including one double and one triple combination. Competitors start with 1,200 points and lose points for disobedience (40 points), knockdowns (28 points), falls (40 points) and time penalties (four points per second above the time limit).
• Combined Event (Running and Pistol Shooting): Pentathletes finish the competition with a combined shoot and run. They shoot with a laser pistol at five “electronic” targets 10 metres away (this laser pistol is also a new innovation in the sport). They then run one kilometre, shoot another five targets down, followed by another kilometre, shoot five more targets down and finally a kilometre run to the finish. Total points after the first three events (fencing, swimming and riding) in the competition determine the start order of the shoot + run. The athlete with the most points starts first, with the remaining athletes starting in a staggered order determined by one second intervals for every four point difference. The first athlete to finish the shoot/run wins the overall pentathlon competition.