Modern Pentathlon


Discipline of Modern Pentathlon
Participants 864
NOCs 57
Competitions held 40 (Venues)
Distinct events 6
IF Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne


Modern pentathlon is a sport invented by the founder of the Olympic Games, the Baron Pierre de Coubertin. It is better termed the “military pentathlon”, as it supposedly mimics the skills needed by a 19th century soldier. He must first ride a horse and then fight off an enemy with a sword. He must then swim a river to escape, then fight off more enemies with a pistol, and finally, effect the final escape by running a cross-country course.

Coubertin was able to get the sport on the Olympic Program in 1912. The order of the events has varied, but the current order is as in the soldier’s trial – riding, fencing, swimming, shooting, and cross-country running. The riding is a cross-country steeplechase course. Fencing is a series of one-touch bouts done with épée swords. Shooting is done with an air pistol from 10 metres (through 2008), but was formerly performed with a rapid-fire pistol. The swim is now a 200 metre freestyle (formerly 300 metres) and the run is a 3,000 metre cross-country event (formerly 4,000 metres). The final event is now arranged such that the runners leave the start in the order of their positions after four events. Further, the starts are arranged such that the time intervals correspond to the number of points separating the competitors. Thus, the finishing order in the run now corresponds exactly to the finishing order of the entire pentathlon, adding to the drama of the event. Beginning at the 1995 World Championships and the 1996 Olympics, the modern pentathlon was changed so that all the events are now contested in one day.

Modern pentathlon was originally dominated by the Swedes. After World War II, the Hungarians and the Soviets became the top countries. Scoring was originally on a points-for-place system with the lowest score winning, but the competition is now scored using tables for each of the five events.

Modern pentathlon is governed by the Union internationale de pentathlon moderne (UIPM), which was founded on 13 August 1948 and currently has 94 members. Prior to 1948 modern pentathlon was administered directly by the IOC. From 1953 on, biathlon and modern pentathlon were governed together and the organization changed its name to the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne et Biathlon (UIPMB) in 1968. In 1993 the federation split into two separate groups to allow biathlon to act autonomously, but they stayed together as UIPMB until 1998. Since 20 August 1998 both sports are governed separately with modern pentathlon returning to UIPM and the International Biathlon Union (IBU) governing biathlon. During 1953 and 1998 the UIPMB was the only international multi-sport organisation recognised by the IOC. Between 1993 and 1998 the presidents of the UIPMB acted in the two year rotation, seeing the president of UIPM in office the two years prior to the Summer Olympic Games and the IBU president the remaining time.

Probably the most obscure sport on the Olympic Program, it has frequently been suggested to remove it from the program. While the sport remains for the time being, since 1992 it has seen the team event discontinued, the number of participants lowered, and the number of competition days reduced. In 2008 the sport announced that it would combine the cross-country running and shooting phases into one competition, similar to a dryland biathlon, and in 2010, it was announced that the air pistol would be replaced by laser pistols. A modern pentathlon event for women débuted on the Olympic Program at Sydney in 2000, although a British girl had attempted to compete in the inaugural 1912 event.

All-time medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
Hungary HUN 9 8 5 22
Sweden SWE 9 7 5 21
Soviet Union URS 5 5 5 15
Russian Federation RUS 4 1 0 5
Poland POL 3 0 1 4
Great Britain GBR 2 2 3 7
Italy ITA 2 2 3 7
Germany GER 2 0 1 3
Lithuania LTU 1 2 1 4
Czech Republic CZE 1 0 1 2
Australia AUS 1 0 0 1
Kazakhstan KAZ 1 0 0 1
United States USA 0 6 3 9
Finland FIN 0 1 4 5
France FRA 0 1 2 3
Czechoslovakia TCH 0 1 1 2
Unified Team EUN 0 1 1 2
Latvia LAT 0 1 0 1
People's Republic of China CHN 0 1 0 1
Ukraine UKR 0 1 0 1
Belarus BLR 0 0 2 2
Brazil BRA 0 0 1 1
Mexico MEX 0 0 1 1

Most successful competitors

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
András Balczó HUN 3 2 0 5
Pavel Lednyov URS 2 2 3 7
Igor Novikov URS 2 2 0 4
Daniele Masala ITA 2 1 0 3
Lars Hall SWE 2 1 0 3
Anatoly Starostin URS
2 1 0 3
János Martinek HUN 2 0 1 3
Ferenc Török HUN 2 0 1 3
Ferenc Németh HUN 2 0 0 2
Arkadiusz Skrzypaszek POL 2 0 0 2
Andrey Moiseyev RUS 2 0 0 2

Event types

Name Gender Still contested? Times held?
Individual Men 24
Individual Women 5
Individual Boys 3
Individual Girls 3
Relay Mixed Youth 3
Team Men 11