Modern Pentathlon

Modern Pentathlon

images of Modern Pentathlon

Olympic Sports

Modern Pentathlon

Modern Pentathlon was championed by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, as a test of all-round sporting prowess.


According to a 19th-century story, a young French cavalry officer was sent on horseback to deliver a message. To complete his mission, he had to ride, fence, shoot, swim and run. These are the five challenges that face competitors in Modern Pentathlon - all in a single day.

Baron de Coubertin was an admirer of the Pentathlon held in the ancient Olympic Games, which was modelled on the skills needed by a soldier at the time. He proposed a similar competition which embraced the spirit of its ancient counterpart. It was de Coubertin's belief that this sport, above all others, would test 'a man's moral qualities as much as his physical resources and skills, producing thereby the ideal, complete athlete'.

Modern Pentathlon was first held at the Stockholm 1912 Games, with a women's competition introduced at Sydney 2000. Originally the elements were spread over four or five days, but since Atlanta 1996 the competition has been completed in a single day.

Since the move to a one-day format, Modern Pentathlon has become a more demanding sport that pushes athletes to their limits. Only those with exceptional physical and mental endurance allied to skill in all five elements can take home the gold.

The Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) was founded in 1948 and now has more than 100 member countries, reflecting the steady spread of the sport worldwide.

International Federation: Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM)(Open in a new window)

Event Programme

  • Individual competition (Men/Women)


A unique competition format

Modern Pentathlon players

Competitors score points in the first three events, which decide their starting position for the final combined event, composed of the shooting and running elements. The first athlete over the line wins the gold medal.

• Fencing
Athletes compete against all others, using the epée. The competition is a round-robin of one-minute matches, with the most successful athletes winning the most points. The short, quick bouts demand complete concentration and the adaptability to cope with different opponents.

• Swimming
The 200-metre freestyle event is a test of power and endurance. Competitors are awarded points based on their finishing times.

• Equestrian
Athletes must ride an unfamiliar horse over a show jumping course without incurring penalties and within the allotted time. In the standalone sport of Equestrian, riders and horses train together for years; in Modern Pentathlon, competitors are paired with their horses in a draw just before the start. This challenge is unique in the world of sport and is one of the aspects that gives Modern Pentathlon its special character.

• Laser-Run (shooting and running)
Competitors are ranked according to their score from the first three elements with the leader going first. One point equals a one-second advantage. In this final combined event, athletes must alternate between shooting five targets from a distance of 10 metres within 50 seconds using a laser pistol, and running four 800m laps. The challenge is to run at top speed then catch your breath to shoot calmly and carefully. These transitions between rapid motion and complete stillness make for some of the sport's most compelling moments, and can affecting the standings right up to the final lap.


Full of western promise

Modern Pentathlon players

The countries of western and eastern Europe have dominated Olympic Modern Pentathlon, with Hungary and Sweden particularly prominent. Indeed, between the Stockholm 1912 and Los Angeles 1932 Games, Swedish athletes won 13 of the 15 medals available.

Medallists in recent years have come from a greater range of countries - indeed, six different teams were represented on the podium in both the men's and women's competitions at London 2012 and Rio 2016. At the latter Games, Russia's Aleksander Lesun and Chloe Esposito from Australia took the respective gold medals. Great Britain's female modern pentathletes have won at least one medal in four of the five stagings.

It will be fascinating to see whether this trend continues at Tokyo 2020 or the sport's historically strong nations return to prominence.



No matter their level of preparation and skill, one factor is beyond the control of any modern pentathlete. What is it?


A:Which horse they ride.
Riders must quickly understand their horse's personality and develop a relationship. While every competitor hopes for a horse that suits them well, it really is down to the luck of the draw.

As of 1 Dec. 2018

Competition Venues

  • Musashino Forest Sport Plaza
  • Tokyo Stadium

Olympic Sports

Paralympic Sports