Let me guess – you’ve never heard of it. I hadn’t heard of it until recently, myself. It’s a bit strange, this one.
The modern pentathlon is the only sport invented specifically for the Olympic games. It consists of five events (obviously): pistol shooting, fencing, 200 m freestyle swimming, show jumping, and a 3 km cross-country run. It was invented by the Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games:
I suppose if you invent the Games you get to include whatever sport you want to, right? In any case, he drew upon the original Greek pentathlon (foot race, wrestling, long jump, javelin, and discus) as inspiration. The Greek pentathlon was based upon skill that any good soldier would have needed at the time. The Baron decided to update it so it would reflect upon skills any good soldier in the Napoleonic wars would need. And thus, a sport was born. It debuted in 1912 and has been at every Summer Games since. The women’s event was added in 2000.
Interestingly enough, the first American to compete in the modern pentathlon was Lieutenant George Patton. Yes, THAT George Patton. He did remarkably well except for the shooting part of the competition. He finished fifth overall, as the nice man in this video will explain to you:
This is an event where the hometown British are actually expected to do well. The Russians and, of course, Germans are also particularly good at it.
Here are some names you’ll want to pay particular attention to:
Olympic champion 2004 & 2008 men: Andrey Moiseeyev (Russia)
World champion 2012 men Aleksander Lesun (Russia)
Olympic champion 2008 women: Lena Schoneborn (Germany)
World champion 2012 women: Mhairi Spence (Great Britain)
Obviously, a lot of these skills don’t relate much to today’s modern warfare. The shooting, swimming, and running holds up, but we’d have to replace fencing and show jumping. What would you replace those with? I think it’d be nice to get some REALLY urban events together and create an all-new modern pentathlon. Think about it: a penthalon with things like the “10 mph drive by” and “chain link fence jumping”. It would introduce a whole new breed of athlete and open the games to a much wider range of people.
How would you improve upon this peculiar event?