The modern pentathlon is an Olympic sport that comprises five different events -- fencing (one-touch épée), freestyle swimming (200m), equestrian show jumping (15 jumps), and a final combined event of pistol shooting and cross country running (3200m).
This last event is now referred to as the laser-run, since it alternates four legs of laser pistol shooting followed by an 800m run (for 3200m in total). The event is inspired by the traditional pentathlon held during the ancient Olympics as the original events were patterned on the skills needed by an ideal Greek soldier of the era, the modern pentathlon is similarly patterned on events representing the skills needed by cavalry behind enemy lines.
The sport has been a core sport of the Olympic Games since 1912 despite attempts to remove it. A world championship for modern pentathlon has been held annually since 1949.
Originally the competition took place over four or five days. In 1996 a one-day format was adopted in an effort to be more audience-friendly.Modern pentathlon, despite its long Olympic history, has had to justify its inclusion in the modern Olympic Games several times. On February 11, 2013 in Lausanne, the IOC confirmed modern pentathlon once again as one of the 25 core sports of the Olympic program through to 2020. The governing body, Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), administers the international sport in more than 90 countries in all the continents of the world.
Athletes gain points for their performance in each event and scores are combined to give the overall total. This is similar to the procedure for the decathlon in track and field athletics.
However, in the modern pentathlon, starting times for the last event (cross country running before 2009; combined laser pistol shooting and cross-country running since 2009), are staggered so that the first person to cross the finish line is the winner. Before the last event competitors are ranked according to their score from the other disciplines and given start times accordingly, with the leader going first, and other starting times being dependent on the number of points already scored. The first person to cross the finish line, therefore, will be the overall points leader and win the pentathlon.