Modern pentathlon consists of five disciplines:
- Pistol shooting.
- Epee fencing.
- Horse riding (equestrian show jumping).
- Cross-country running.
Competitors earn points in each discipline, with the number of points gained from the first four determining the starting position for the final event — the cross-country run.
Each event has a set standard, which if met will net the athlete 1,000 points. Exceeding the standard will add points, and falling below it will subtract points.
Pistol shooting in the modern pentathlon
Shooting is normally the first event in the competition and involves a 4.5mm air pistol shot from 10m (32.8ft) at a stationary target 15.5cm (6.1in) in diameter. There is a 40 second time limit for each shot.
The targets have 10 rings rated from 10 to 1, with the center worth 10 points. If a shot hits the line between two rings the higher score counts.
When the 20 shots have been completed a total (out of 200) is calculated and then converted into a points score.
Fencing in the modern pentathlon
Fencing in triathlon is fought with epee swords. Each competitor has a bout against every other competitor in the competition.
The winner in each contest is decided by the first fencer to score a ‘hit’. If neither scores a hit, then both lose. If both hit one another within 0.04 of a second, then neither hit is registered.
The number is victories recorded is converted in a points score, based on 1,000 points being awarded for winning 70 per cent of the bouts. Wins or losses above or below this level either add to the overall points score or reduce it.
Swimming in the modern pentathlon
The swimming event is a freestyle race over 200m for both the men’s and women’s competitions. Athletes are seeded in heats according to their personal best time.
For men, a time of 2 minutes 30 seconds equates to 1,000 points, and for women, a time of 2 minutes 40 seconds scores 1,000 points. Every tenth of a second below or above, increases or decreases the athlete’s scores by a point.
Riding in the modern pentathlon
The riding event consists of equestrian show jumping over a course between 350m to 450m (approximately 383 to 492 yards) in length. It includes 12 hurdles (12 jumps) with one double and one triple jump.
The athlete has a specific time limit (set according to the distance) within which to complete the course, and penalties are awarded against for knocking down any fences. A fault-free ride within the allowed time limit would net 1,200 points.
A draw is made by the organisers to provide the horses to be used in this event.
Cross-country running in the modern pentathlon
The climax to the competition, the cross-country running over a 3,000m (1.86 mile) course, ultimately decides the winners.
The starting order for the running is arranged according to the scores gained in the previous four events. The differences in points between the athletes are worked out, and for every three points difference, this equates to a 3 second gap. For example, a competitor 30 points behind the leader, would start 30 seconds behind the leader.