A 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. That is, overall goal for pentathletes are scores in the order of 5000 points distributed somewhat evenly across the sports. Women first competed at the Olympics as of the games of the XXVii Olympiad in Sydney, Australia in 2000.
The sport has continued to evolve and "modernize" with the shooting and running now in an exciting combined event and the introduction of the use of laser pistols. Both of these elements were utilized at the first ever Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010 and make their first appearance at the Olympics in London 2012.
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.