One letter. One event. Five separate (but related) disciplines.

Due to take place for the first time – in its latest, approved form – at the London Olympics, of 2012.

The Modern Pentathlon.

Sweet. And no rapper.

Thanks to, for additional facts and figures.

Modern Pentathlon

Modern Pentathlon

In ancient Greece, the Games culminated in the pentathlon, which consisted of running, jumping, spear-throwing, discus, and wrestling. All five exercises took place between the same contestants, on the same day.
The event held a position of unique importance, with the winner – the one who triumphed in a majority 3 or more events – ranked as “Victor Ludorum”.

The modern pentathlon was introduced by Baron de Coubertin at the Stockholm Games in 1912.
Pistol shooting, fencing, swimming, horse riding, and running featured, initially.

It was de Coubertin’s assertion that the pentathlon in this form would be the supreme test of an athlete’s moral qualities, skills, and physical resources.

Men’s modern pentathlon became part of the Olympic Games in 1912 at Stockholm, Sweden.

Jim Thorpe was a member of the United States track and field team at the Olympic Games of 1912 and was widely recognized as the world’s greatest all-around athlete after he won both the pentathlon and the decathlon.

From 1912 to 1980, the Olympic modern pentathlon was held over five days, with one event per day.

Beginning with the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, however, all five events were held in one day
This marked a return to the ancient tradition – a format which has also helped draw in more spectators.

Modern pentathlon competitions were open exclusively to men until 1977, when women’s modern pentathlon was officially introduced at the world championships in San Antonio, Texas. The 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, marked the Olympic debut of women’s modern pentathlon.

Competitors score points in the first three events, which decide their starting position for the final combined event, which comprises the shooting and running disciplines. The first athlete over the line wins the gold medal.

The points-scoring stage consists of the following:


A fencing competition, using the epee – a weapon developed from the duelling sword. It is similar in length to a foil but heavier, with a larger guard and a much stiffer blade.

Each athlete duels with each of the other athletes, in a series of one-minute bouts.


A flat-out swimming race, over 200 meters.

The competition pool is 50m long and a minimum 21m wide. It has touch panels of electronic timing equipment, at the starting end. The pool must be 1.80m deep, throughout.

Obstacle Course

A horse-riding and jumping event. A competitor on horseback must urge the animal to clear various objects (obstacles) in its path – such as a fence, gate or water jump.

The riding course is 350-450 meters in length, and consists of 12 obstacles – a combination of two elements (a double) and another of three elements (a triple).

Having established a points tally, the pentathletes then line up for the final stage:

Laser pistol

The contestants begin with the pistol-shooting event, in which they fire 20 shots at a target.

A laser pistol is a weapon that is identical in weight and pistol grip to the traditional air pistol – which used compressed air or carbon dioxide to discharge lead pellets.

The laser pistol, however, uses a laser-based barrel powered by one AA battery, instead of a gun barrel.
It fires a beam of light, rather than a solid projectile.

Competitors fire at electronic targets marked with concentric circles.

You know those combat sims or war games, where the kids wear padded gear with sensors on, and zap each other, round corners? Like that.

Laser shooting was introduced for safety reasons, and to reduce the environmental impact of lead bullets.

It was first featured in 2010, during the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.

Laser pistol will see its full debut at an adult Olympic Games, in London 2012.

Cross-Country Running

A race, over 3,000 meters of undulating landscape.

Pretty exhausting.

And I’m running out of time.

But I’ll be back, with some Rolling Rs.

Till then.