Competitions of Modern Pentathlon

Athletes gain points for their performance in each event and scores are combined to give the overall total. In the modern pentathlon, starting times for the last event (cross country running before 2009; combined laser pistol shooting and cross-country running since 2009), are staggered so that the first person to cross the finish line is the winner. Before the last event competitors are ranked according to their score from the other disciplines and given start times accordingly, with the leader going first. The first person to cross the finish line, therefore, is the overall points leader and wins the pentathlon.

  • Fencing
  • Swimming
  • Riding
  • Shooting
  • Running
  • The fencing discipline uses the épée. The competition is a round-robin, meaning each competitor will face all the other competitors once. Each match lasts up to one minute; the first fencer to score a hit wins instantly. Double hits are not counted. If neither scores within one minute, they both lose the match.
  • The swimming discipline is a 200 m freestyle race. Until the 2000 Olympics, the distance was 300 metres. Competitors are seeded in heats according to their fastest time over the distance.
  • The riding discipline involves show jumping over a 350–450 m course with 12 to 15 obstacles. Competitors are paired with horses in a draw 20 minutes before the start of the event.
  • The laser-run is a combination of the running and shooting events so that each competitor ran three 1000m laps, each preceded by hitting five targets with a pistol. In each of the four rounds of firing, athletes have to successfully shoot five targets, loading the laser gun after each shot. They resume running once they have five successful hits, or once the maximum shooting time of 50 seconds has expired. Misses are not penalised. The current format maintains the principle that the overall winner will be the first to cross the finish line.Until 2009, the shooting discipline involved firing a 4.5 mm (.177 cal) air pistol in the standing position from 10 metres distance at a stationary target. The format was that of the 10 metre air pistol competition: each competitor had 20 shots, with 40 seconds allowed for each shot. Beginning with the Rancho Mirage World Cup (Feb 2011), the pistols changed to a laser instead of an actual projectile. There is a slight delay between the trigger pull and the laser firing, simulating the time it would take for a pellet to clear the muzzle.

The running discipline involved a 3 km cross-country race until 2009 when it was combined with the shooting event. From the start of the 2013 season, the laser-run was changed again to consist of four 800m laps each preceded by laser shooting at five targets. This change was intended to restore some of the importance of the shooting skill felt to have been lost in the original 2009 combined event. Until the 2000 Olympics, the distance was 4 kilometres.

The laser-run has been criticized as altering too radically the nature of the skills required. The New York Times asked whether the name ought to be changed to “tetrathlon” given that two of the five disciplines had been combined into a single event.