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What is Olympic Modern Pentathlon?


Updated May 20, 2008


The modern pentathlon is an Olympic sport which consists of competition in five events in one grueling day:

Pistol shooting: Shooting is normally the first discipline in competitions. Using a 4.5 millimeter air pistol, competitors fire 20 shots at 20 targets from a distance of 10 meters. The targets have 10 rings and a center circle. Ten points are scored for a hit in the center circle. One point is scored for the outside ring, two for the next ring and so on.

Epee fencing: The fencing portion of the modern pentathlon is a round robin-tournament, with each competitor facing the others once. The winner is the first fencer to score a hit. If neither scores a hit during the one-minute fight, both lose.

Swimming: The swimming event is a freestyle race over 200 m for men and women with athletes seeded in heats according to their personal best time. A time of 2:30 minutes equates to 1,000 points for men, while 2:40 minutes scores 1,000 points for women. Every tenth of a second below or above those figures increases or decreases the competitors' scores by a point.

Riding: The riding event involves jumping over hurdles of a maximum height of 1.20m. The hurdles course has a length of 350 to 450m length, and includes 12 hurdles (15 jumps) with one double and one triple jump. The athlete has to complete the course within a specific time limit, according to the course's length. A time limit is set for the course, equating to one minute for every 350m in length.

Cross-country running: This event consists of a cross-country race conducted on an uneven terrain or on a public road and over a distance of 3 km (3,000 m) for both men and women. Completing this course within 10 minutes and zero seconds for men, and within 11 minutes and 20 seconds for women adds 1,000 points to the overall score of the athlete.


Shooting: The athletes use a 4.5 millimeter air pistol.

Fencing: The athletes use an epee sword, which is similar in length to a foil but heavier, with a larger guard and a much stiffer blade.

Riding: The riding course is 350–450m in length, consisting of 12 obstacles, a combination of two elements (a double) and another of three elements (a triple). The horses used in the Olympic Modern Pentathlon are supplied by the games organizers, so the competitors are not familiar with them.

Swimming: The pool for the swimming event must be 50m long, 1.80m deep throughout, and a minimum 21m wide with touch panels of electronic timing equipment at starting end.


Competitors earn points for their performances in each of the five disciplines. The total points scored in the first four events determine the starting order for the final event, cross-country running. The leading competitor starts first and the others are set off in time intervals based on the points difference between them. As a result of this staggered start, the first three athletes to cross the finish line at the end of the race win the gold, silver and bronze medals.

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