Coubertin Quote for Aug, 16
The individual who truly deserves that name ‘Olympian’ is the competitor in the modern pentathlon.

While the Modern Pentathlon is not without its critics today, the historical record makes it clear that Baron Pierre de Coubertin considered the five-event sport a true measure of Olympic skills.  When this passage appeared in “Olympic Letter IX: The Modern Pentathlon,” in 1918, few were surprised by his assertion—since the baron invented the competition himself and launched it in the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games.  Over the years, the Union International de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), has introduced a series of innovations, including the Combined Event, which blends laser-pistol shooting and cross-country running in a single race, that have transformed it into a truly modern, often thrilling competition, justifying in some ways the baron’s early statements.

“The individual who truly deserves that name ‘Olympian’ is the competitor in the modern pentathlon, which began at the Fifth Olympiad, held in Stockholm in 1912. The following events were required of him: duel shooting at 25 meters, on visible targets, in three seconds; three hundred meters freestyle swimming; four kilometers on horseback over an obstacle course; a fencing event using the epée; and a 4,000-meter cross-country foot race. Now that is real all-round athleticism.”

The baron designed the event to showcase the drama of a military courier with a life and death message to deliver.  To start, he had to shoot his way out of trouble before riding his steed toward his destination.  When his horse was shot out from under him, he had to defend himself with an épée, swim across a river and finally run cross country to deliver his message.  Originally a five-day event, the MP can now be contested in a single day in a single stadium.  The UIPM introduced women’s competitions in the early 1980s.  Long before he became a famous World War II general, George S. Patton placed fifth in the first Modern Pentathlon in 1912.  Note:  The Pentathlon, a five-event track and field sport, which was won by Jim Thorpe in 1912 and subsequently dropped from the Olympic program, is an entirely different competition.

Modern Pentathlon Combined Event--Courtesy Creative Commons