Olympics 2012: A beginner’s guide to the Modern Pentathlon

Did you know that the five events are based on the escape of a soldier trapped in a castle on a lake?

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The pentathlon of the Ancient Games at Olympia comprised running, jumping and wrestling plus discus and javelin-throwing. The modern version is very different, based on the 19th-century equivalent of a Bond fantasy: a soldier is trapped in a castle on a lake and must fence his way out before swimming to the shore, riding an unfamiliar horse out of the village and running through a wood shooting at enemies.

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The sport has a chequered history, including perhaps the most infamous Olympic cheating incident. In 1976, Soviet army officer Boris Onischenko was discovered to have concealed an electronic device in his sword that allowed him to register a hit at will. Later, taking tranquillisers to steady the arm for the shooting event became so rife that the organisers were forced to move it closer to the running event, for which no one could afford to be sedated.

As for 2012, modern pentathlon Olympic gold medallist Stephanie Cook says, “Russia’s reigning Olympic champion, Andrey Moiseyev, is the man to beat. Britain’s Nick Woodbridge and Sam Weale, ranked nine and 15 respectively, will need an exceptional performance to be in with a medal shout.” 

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From 8:45am BBC Olympics 10; Combined Event 6.45pm BBC1