The 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London will mark the 100th anniversary of the first contesting of the modern pentathlon. Coming from the Greek words "penta" meaning five and "athlon" meaning contest, the modern pentathlon consists of five disciplines: fencing, swimming, riding, running, and shooting.
Previously contested over 5 days since its first inclusion at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, the competition has taken place in a single day since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Thirty-six men and 36 will compete separately, with gold, silver, and bronze medals awarded to the top three finishers of each gender.
To understand the competition, it is important to know the terms used to describe the events and venues.
There are three main venues for the one-day competition. Fencing will be contested in the Copper Box, previously named Handball Arena. Swimming will be held in the Aquatics Center. The riding, running, and shooting events will be held in Greenwich Park. The Copper Box and Aquatics Center were built specifically for the London Games.
The first event contested is fencing. Participants use an epée, a three-sided thrusting sword with a guard over the tip.
In the fencing competition, a hit is successfully a striking opponent with the sword.
A piste is the conductive metal mat on which fencers compete. When a hit occurs, the contact between the epée and the fencer completes the circuit and the hit is signaled with a light or buzzer.
The fencing competition will be contested in a round-robin format, meaning each competitor will face all other competitors in random order. Whoever scores the first hit wins the match.
The swimming portion of the competition is contested freestyle, meaning each competitor is free to choose the stroke he feels will be fastest for him.
During the equestrian event, this term describes a horse's refusal or resistance to obey a rider, jump obstacles, or follow the designated course.
The combined event comprises the final two disciplines of the competition, running and shooting, which repeat and alternate three times during the event.
Replacing the 10-millimeter air pistol for the first time, laser pistols are being introduced for safety reasons, and to reduce the environmental impact of lead bullets.
These are the practice shots fired by competitors at the start of the combined event. These shots are to calibrate and adjust the sight (used for aim) and do not count toward the score.
In the combined event, the final event of the pentathlon, the leader through the first three events starts first and all other athletes begin afterward in order of standing, based on the results of the first three events. The farther behind on points a competitor is, the longer the head start the leaders have.
A fan of the Olympics and frequent writer about the 2012 London Games, Dave will be spending his summer vacation stateside, cheering on Team USA to gold.