Modern pentathlon was introduced at the 1912 Olympics by Baron Pierre de Coubertin. It was de Coubertin’s belief that it would be the 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.” It sought to replicate the pentathlon held in the ancient Greek games where the winner was considered to be the ‘victor ludorum’.
Athletes fence every other competitor with epee swords for one hit within a time limit of one minute. If a hit is not scored within the time, both competitors register a defeat. The target area is the whole body and hits are registered via an electronic tip at the end of the sword. A total score of 70% victories equals 1,000 points with the value of each hit worth 24 points.
The swimming event is a free-style race over 200 metres for men and women with athletes seeded in heats according to their personal best time. A time of 2 minutes 30 seconds for men and women earns 1,000 points. Every third of second above or below this time is equal to plus or minus four points, thus the value of each swimming second is worth 12 points.
The athletes ride unfamiliar horses over 12 show-jumping obstacles of up to 120 cm in height and 150 cm in spread including one double and one triple. The track is between 350-450 metres in length. Athletes pick their horses by lot and have 20 minutes and five practice fences for warm-up. Competitions start with 1,200 points and lose 20 points for knockdowns, 40 points for refusal or disobedience to jump, 40 points for falling off and 4 points per second for being over the standard time (1 minute and 9 seconds for a 400m course). If the round takes longer than twice the standard time the ride is terminated and a further 300 points is deducted.
Athletes (men and women) run over a cross-country or road course which is 3,000 metres in length in total. Competitors at Olympic Games, World Championships and World Cups are set off at intervals which correspond in seconds to the points difference between themselves and the athlete in front.
Athletes runa short distance to the laser shooting range where they have to hit 5 targets in 70 seconds. They then run a 1000m loop back to the range where they have to hit 5 more targets in 70 seconds. A futher loop of 1000m is followed by another visit to the range and a 1000m run to the finish.
A time of 12 minutes 30 seconds for men and women earns 2,000 points. Every second above or below this standard will gain or lose 4 points.
The winner of the Modern Pentathlon event is the first athlete to cross the line.