London Spy

Sport guide: Modern Pentathlon

London Spy

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Shooting at the women's event in Beijing 2008


Olympic folklore has it that Baron de Coubertin introduced the modern pentathlon around the skills required of a 19th-century soldier — riding, shooting, fencing, running and swimming.

The competition was added to the Games schedule in 1912 and has since been condensed into a challenging single day of action.

It begins with épée, as each athlete fences each of the others. The second discipline is swimming, freestyle over 200 metres, and then comes riding, over a course of 12 jumps.

The total scores are then converted into a time handicap which is used to set the starting times for a combined running and shooting event, with athletes shooting at sets of five targets after running several stretches of 1,000 metres. The winner is the first athlete to cross the line at the end.

A team competition took place from 1952 until 1992 and was dominated by Eastern Europe, with four gold medals each for Hungary and the Soviet Union and one for Poland.

Great Britain has won four of the nine medals awarded, including one gold, since the women's competition was introduced in 2000.

The men's individual event was the sole property of Sweden in the early years. The Swedes achieved a clean sweep of all the medals in 1912, 1920 and 1924 and progressed to win nine of the 12 gold medals awarded until 1968, since when they have won only a silver in 1984.

Lars Hall became the first man to win the modern pentathlon twice when he added gold in 1956 to his medal from 1952. Andrey Moiseev repeated the feat in 2008 when he won his second consecutive gold, and Russia's third.

1 Alexander Lesun (Russia)
2 Andrei Moiseev (Russia)
3 Ádám Marosi (Hungary)
4 Jung Jinhwa (Korea)
5 David Svoboda (Czech Republic)
6 Cao Zhongrong (China)
7 Róbert Kasza (Hungary)
8 Hwang Woojin (Korea)
1 Lena Schöneborn (Germany)
2 Laura Asadauskaite (Lithuania)
3 Mhairi Spence (Great Britain)
4 Donata Rimsaite (Russia)
5 Chen Qian (China)
6 Amélie Cazé (France)
7 Viktoria Tereshchuk (Ukraine)

The scoring system is based on a set of standard times and performances; a total score of 5000 points is considered par.

In fencing, winning 25 of 35 matches earns 1000 points with 24 points added or subtracked for each victory over 25 or loss less than 25.

In swimming, completing the course in 2:30 earns 1000 points with 4 points added or subtracked for every third of a second below or above that time.

Horses are allocated through a draw for the show jumping. A rider who achieves a clear round within the time limit earns 1200 points. Each additional second incurs a four point penalty and 20 points are docked for each fault and 40 points for every refusal to jump.

The run-shoot begins with a short run to the shooting range where they have 70 seconds to hit five 59.5mm targets from a distance of 10m. If athletes hit all five targets within the time, they can begin the first of three 1000m laps but if they fail to hit one or more target, they have to wait 70 seconds. The process is repated after the first and second laps and the third lap ends at the finishing line.


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