The Greek Olympic Games 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 and held a position of unique importance in the Games. It 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 (IOC) 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
Modern Pentathlon was introduced at the 5th Olympiad in Stockholm (SWE) 1912, comprising the contemporary sports of pistol shooting, fencing, swimming, horse riding and running, which 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 World War II 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 team event) in the Modern Pentathlon to date is Pavel Lednev (former USSR) who was 37 years old at the 1980 Games in Moscow. In the same Olympic Games the individual gold medallist (former USSR) Anatoly Starostin was 20. Today, both men and women compete in 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. The star of the last event is by Handicap Start; in this way the winner of the competition is the first athlete to cross the finishing line.