Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, desired a competition which focused on the whole athlete and range of skills. The five disciplines of the pentathlon cover physical capabilities (running and swimming), self control and coordination (shooting), intelligence and strategy (fencing), and adaptability and courage (riding).
The five events of the pentathlon will be contested in a single day, Aug. 11 for men and Aug. 12 for women. There are 36 competitors in each gender.
The pentathlon begins with fencing, in the newly built arena named the Copper Box. The competitors will face each other in a round-robin series of matches, until each has faced all other opponents. With a 1-minute per match time limit, and only 1 hit required to win, these will not be long contests. If neither competitor scores a hit before time elapses, both record losses. Once all matches are completed, points are assigned based on percentage of matches won.
Competitors will next move to the indoor centerpiece of the London Games, the Aquatics Centre. There, they will compete in a 200-meter swim, four lengths of the 50-meter pool. The swim is freestyle, so each competitor may choose the stroke he or she is most comfortable with. Swimmers will be divided into heats, but compete against the clock, not each other. Points are awarded based on finish time
The remaining events will be held in historic Greenwich Park. Similar to the dressage event in the equestrian competition, riders will navigate a course and series of jumps and obstacles. Riders will lose points if their horse knocks down a bar on a jump, if the horse refuses to perform a jump, or if the horse/rider falls.
The final event is actually two events, running and shooting. With a handicapped starting format based on standings after the first three events, competitors will run to the shooting line, hit their five targets, and complete a 1,000-meter run. This cycle will repeat three times. 2012 will be the first time competitors use laser guns instead of traditional bullets. The first finisher in the combined event wins the gold medal, with silver and bronze for second and third respectively.
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.