History of Modern Pentathlon

The Pentathlon consisting of running the length of the stadium, jumping, throwing the spear, throwing the discus and wrestling was introduced for the first time at the 18th Olympiad in 708 BC. The Pentathlon held a position of unique importance in the Games and was considered to be the climax, with the winner ranked as "Victor Ludorum".

Admiration for the ancient Pentathlon was fully shared by the founder of the Modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, and from 1909, he tried to have the event re-introduced into the Olympic programme. Pentathlon’s moment came two years later at the 14th session of the International Olympic Committee in Budapest (HUN) when, as the Baron stated: "the Holy Ghost of sport illuminated my colleagues and they accepted a competition to which I attach great importance".

The Modern Pentathlon

The Modern Pentathlon, introduced at the 5th Olympiad in Stockholm (SWE) in 1912, comprised the contemporary sports of pistol shooting, fencing, swimming, horse riding and running, and embraced the spirit of its ancient counterpart. It was De Coubertin’s belief that it would be this event, above all others, that "tested a man’s moral qualities as much as his physical resources and skills, producing thereby the ideal, complete athlete.” This new sport was enthusiastically adopted with its inherent demands of courage, co-ordination, physical fitness, self-discipline and flexibility in ever changing circumstances. A young American Lieutenant, later to be the famous 2nd World War General George S. Patton, was to finish fifth in the first ever Olympic Modern Pentathlon competition. The mixture of physical and mental skills demanded in the Pentathlon has also meant that athletes have been able to compete in as many as three or four Olympic Games. This is because while running and swimming times can be expected to decline with age, experience and skill in the technical disciplines often increase.

The oldest Olympic gold medallist in the Modern Pentathlon to date is Pavel Lednev (former URS) who was 37 years old at the 1980 Games in Moscow.

Today, both men and women complete all five events of the Modern Pentathlon in one day. A points system for each event is based on a standard performance earning 1000 points. The fifth and final event is a 3km Run, which has a handicap start based on the athletes' total points from the first four events. The winner of the competition is the first athlete to cross the finishing line.

Administration of Modern Pentathlon

Modern Pentathlon was administered directly by the IOC until 1948, when the International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM) was founded by Gustaf Dyrssen (1920 Olympic Champion) from Sweden as the first President and Sven Thofelt, Secretary General, and later to be President for 28 years (IOC Member 1970 – 1976).

In 1960, Biathlon (cross country skiing and rifle shooting) was introduced in the Olympic Program and joined the Union which thereafter became the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne and Biathlon (UIPMB). In 1993, an agreement was made to retain the Union as an umbrella body under which the UIPM and the International Biathlon (IBU) could act autonomously. The UIPMB, however, continued to be the only international multi-sport organisation recognised by the IOC.

Until 1998, the President of Modern Pentathlon acted as President of the Union during the two years prior to the Summer Games, and the President of the Biathlon acted as such for two years prior to each of the Winter Games. Having matured into an organisation capable of continuing on its own, the IBU decided on 26 June 1998, to exist autonomously. The separation from the UIPMB took effect on 20 August 1998, creating two distinct International Federations – the UIPM and the IBU, both of which are recognised by the IOC and GAISF. At this moment, there are over 100 National Modern Pentathlon Federations affiliated with UIPM.

Modern Pentathlon Competitions

Olympic Games

From 1912 to 1980 the Olympic Modern Pentathlon competition was held over five days with one event per day. Between 1984 and 1992, the competition was held over four days with either running and shooting or swimming and shooting on the same day. For the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996, the competition was a one-day event in which 32 men who qualified via pre-Olympic competitions participated. In 1998, the UIPM received approval for women to compete in the Sydney 2000 Olympics Games and so 24 men and 24 women competed in individual competition and for the first time in history, the Pentathlon venues were 96% sold out. UIPM subsequently received an increase in the quota and in Athens 2004, 32 men and 32 women competed and both competitions were 100% sold-out. Following this success, UIPM received in February 2006 a further increase in quota from the IOC Executive Board – in Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, 36 men and 36 Women took part in the Olympic Modern Pentathlon event.

World Championships

World Championships take place annually for Senior, Junior and Youth A (17-18 years), Men & Women which include individual, team and relay events. Youth World Championships differ slightly in that they do not include riding. Athletes qualify for the Final via qualification groups of up to 36 athletes per group. So, in the case of 3 groups the top 12 placed athletes qualify. The athletes then compete in the Final, two days later, which is therefore comprised of the best 32 competitors from these qualifiers. Individual medals and prize money are awarded as well as team medals which are decided by adding the three individual team member’s scores together. . For the, relay event this consists of 16 teams of three athletes competing in a continuous relay completed in one day. Each Team Member fires 10 shots, swims 100m, fences one opposing team member, runs 1500m, and rides a horse over 8 x show jumps. In this way, the relay competition is an exciting spectacle requiring contribution form each team member in every event.

World Cup Series

A World Cup Series for both Men and Women has been organised since 1990. Each year between 4 and 6 World Cup competitions and a World Cup Final are organised and the whole package is called the World Cup Series. The best 32 athletes qualify for the World Cup Final via a league table constructed from their three best results at World Cup competitions. The very best 32 athletes are guaranteed to compete in the Finals. Prize money is also available.


Designed as a 'Sport for All', Biathle has been practised for over 50 years and is the most recent of the UIPM products. The first Biathle World Championships took place in Monaco in 1999 and the Biathle World Tour started in 2002 now includes 6 cities staging a Tour event every year. Through Biathle, the UIPM has established a competition comprised of the two fundamental components of Modern Pentathlon and most practised sports in the world - run and swim. It is a fun sport to take part in and a fun sport to watch The competition begins with a pack start of runners who complete one-half of the total running distance before entering a 50 meter transition area. Athletes then dive into the water and swim the required swimming distance before exiting the water, putting on their shoes and running the second leg of the run to the finish line. Capable of being organised in any season, indoors or outdoors, Biathle competition distances differ depending upon age category. Senior, Junior and Youth A athletes run 1500m, swim 200m, and run 1500m. Shorter distances exist for Masters and Youth B, C, D and E categories. Biathle permits more involvement for the smaller countries in the world of sport, allowing UIPM to introduce the world's youth to the sport of modern pentathlon and to instil the values of sport for all, culture and education through sport.

In 2005, the UIPM launched a new competition - World School Biathle. The swim is conducted in a 25m or 50m pool and the run is conducted preferably on a standardised track. The swim is conducted first and the run is mass start. The Final result is the sum of the swimming and running times. World School Biathle is intended for schools and all institutions who are interested in the well being of children. The originality of the project is that schools will take part to this World competition by entering their results in a database using the UIPM website (www. pentathlon.org) directly from their location. Therefore this global competition does not require any funding for transportation or lodging. All can be made ‘at home’ by the teacher or coach. The results are calculated at the end of each year and awards given to the winning athletes. UIPM has a philosophy linking all its activities in order to achieve an Education through Sport. World School Biathle, by using the internet as a tool to enable schools to participate in friendly competition, is easy to organise and inexpensive to practice. UIPM has the wish to collaborate with the appropriate institutions in order to contribute developing an access to Sport for All for a better education and communication between youth around the world.


Epée Fencing

Fencing is a series of one-touch bouts with epée swords. Unchanged since 1912, the fencing event of modern pentathlon is a round-robin tournament, with a single touch deciding each match. The fencing event is held in an indoor arena on special strips (pistes) measuring 14m long and between 1.5m and 2m wide. Each competitor has a bout against every other competitor. Bouts last for one minute, the winner being the first fencer to score a hit. If neither scores a hit, both competitors register a defeat. If competitors hit one another within 0.04 of a second (a double hit), neither hit is registered. Point penalties are awarded for a variety of infringements including hitting the epée on anything other than the opponent to register a hit, crossing the boundary line with both feet or to avoid a hit, dangerous play and when a fencer turns their back on the opponent. 70 % bouts won corresponds to 1000 Pentathlon points. Each win is called a victory and each loss a defeat. Each victory over or under the 70% mark is worth a specific point value and this number is in accordance with the number of competitors:

22-23 matches gives +/-40 points

24-26 matches gives +/-36 points

27-29 matches gives +/-32 points

30-33 matches gives +/-28 points

34-39 matches gives +/-24 points

Example: 36 competitions (the number of athletes in a final) means 35 bouts, 70% of 35 bouts = 25 victories = 1000 points, 23 victories are therefore worth 952 Pentathlon points


Pentathletes usually have a swimming background, which is considered to be the only pentathlon discipline that cannot be taught at a higher level at an older age. For this reason, good swimming standards are considered to be a “precondition” for participation in Modern Pentathlon. The swimming event is a freestyle race over 200m for men and women with athletes seeded in heats according to their personal best time. A time of 2:30 earns 1000 Pentathlon points. Every 0.33 seconds is worth +/- 4 points and thus the value of each swimming second is worth 12 points. Example: the time 2:32.66 minutes corresponds to 968 points. Forty point penalties are incurred for a false start, failing to touch the wall at the end of a lap or leaving the pool in an incorrect manner as stipulated in the rules.

Riding- Equestrian Show Jumping

The riding even (equestrian show jumping) included in the Modern Pentathlon competition involves jumping over obstacles of up to 120cm in height. The obstacle course is between 335-450m in length and includes 12 obstacles with one double and one triple, for 15 jumps. Athletes compete on horses provided by the organisers, which are selected from a random draw. For warm-up and preparation purposes, athletes are allowed to ride their allocated horse for 20 minutes and to have up to 5 trial jumps in the warm-up arena provided for the purpose. Pentathletes are given 20mins to inspect the course at any time during the competition programme according to the organiser’s schedule. The athlete has a specific time limit in which to complete the course, and the time limit is set according to its length. A clear round in time allowed (varies between 1 minute and 1.17 minutes) gives the rider 1200 pentathlon points. For each mistake the rider loses points. Examples of penalties given are 28 points for knock-down and 40 points for every refusal or disobedience: but any disobedience leading to the knocking down of an obstacle gives 60 points deduction. After 2 refusals to jump, the rider must try to jump the next obstacle. For ever obstacle not jumped, the rider loses 200 points. A fall of the rider from the horse or if they both fall is a 40 point penalty. After 2 falls the riding will be terminated and the rider will have a further 300 points deducted. Each second over the time limit means a deduction of 4 points. The maximum time is the standard time +75 seconds. If the rider is slower than the maximum time allowed, the riding is terminated and the rider given minus 240 points and also a deduction of 80 points per obstacle not jumped. Riders must stay between the flags marking the course and must jump the obstacles in order. Riders must wear protective head-gear and a rising jacket and can use a whip and spurs: but hoods and blinkers are prohibited.

Combined (shoot/run)

In 2008, the UIPM Congress passed a motion to change the competition format of the Modern Pentathlon to combine the shoot and run disciplines. This is now known as the “combined event” and is the final event of the day’s competition. In the individual competition for men and women at Senior, Junior and Youth A levels, athletes start with a handicap start, approx. 20m run, to a shooting range where they are required to hit 5 Targets down (time limit 1’10”) before beginning a 1000m run. This is repeated 2 further times for a total of 15 targets and 3,000m run. Two thousand (2000) Pentathlon points are awarded for a time of 14 minutes. Each second faster or slower than the prescribed time is worth +/-4 points.

The combined event is also included in relay competitions in teams of 2 or 3 pentathletes. However, the format differs slightly in that only 2 series of the course are repeated (5 Targets down (time limit 1’10”); 1000m run; 5 Targets down (time limit 1’10”); 1000m run) for each of the pentathletes. For team of 3 athletes, 2000 points are awarded for a time 28.00. Each second faster or slower than the prescribed time is worth +/-4 points. For team of 2 athletes, 2000 points are awarded for a time 19.00. Each second faster or slower than the prescribed time is worth +/-4 points.

Within the combined event the shooting takes place with any 4.5mm calibre compressed or CO2 single shot air pistol, fired at a target from a distance of 10 metres. The Shooting competition is in 3 series; each series consists of hitting 5 targets with an unlimited number of shots in a maximum time of 1’10” on a target of dimension 59.5mm. If after 1’10” one or more targets have not been hit, the pentathlete can start on the running leg without being penalised. Only after having hit 5 targets using an unlimited number of shots in the time limit of 1’10”, can the pentathlete start from the shooting station to perform the first running leg of 1000m. After the first leg, the pentathletes return to their shooting stations, where they must reset their target, (only the pentathlete is authorised to reset their target) and then start the second shooting series that consists of hitting 5 targets using a unlimited number of shots but in the time limit of 1’10”. The pentathlete repeats the same procedure for the second shooting series and second running leg of 1000m. After the third shooting series the pentathletes perform the third and final running leg of 1000m to the finish line.

The combined event uses electronic targets which consist of one black single aim and 5 green/red lamps indicators. The targets separate the Shooting zone (target) and indicators. The standard target dimension is 250mm diameter circle. The target valid zone is 59.5mm.