By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Modern version features biathlon-style event
Placeholder Image


LONDON (AP) — The modern pentathlon kicks off this final Olympic weekend with fencing, swimming, horseback riding and, for the first time, a combined biathlon-style running and shooting event aimed at making the competition shorter and more dynamic.

Modern pentathlon has been criticized for its lack of international appeal and domination by Eastern Europeans.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, introduced the modern pentathlon for the 1912 games in Stockholm. The premise of the competition is that of a soldier behind enemy lines, who must duel, swim, ride, run and shoot in order to survive.

In earlier Olympics it was spread out over several days, but all five disciplines are now held on a single day: Saturday for the men and Sunday — the last day of the Olympics — for the women.

Unlike the main equestrian competition, which wrapped up on Thursday, modern pentathlon athletes don't bring their own mounts: Part of the skill is being able to ride an unfamiliar horse and successfully jump fences without knocking down rails.

Local British stables have leased their horses for use by the competitors, and for a week volunteers have been caring for the animals out at Greenwich Park, bringing them into the main show jump arena for practice jumps after the main equestrian competition has ended.

The highest jump they must negotiate is 1.3 meters.

The competition starts with:

FENCING: Athletes use epee swords, and fence for one touch against each of the other athletes. If no touch is made within a minute, each fencer is credited with a loss.

SWIMMING: Athletes swim a 200 meter freestyle.

RIDING: Horses are picked by lot 20 minutes before the competition. Horse and rider must negotiate 15 obstacles with penalties for rails down and going over the time limit.

COMBINED EVENT: The athlete with the most points from the previous four events starts first, running to the shooting range and trying to hit five targets within 70 seconds. Athletes then run 1000 meters, three times over. Subsequent athletes have staggered starts based on their points going into the final event. The one who crosses the finish line first wins.

The 2008 gold medalist, Lena Schoneborn of Germany, is the favorite for the women while for the men, Andrei Moiseev of Russia is seeking his third consecutive Olympic gold.