Modern Pentathlon

Sport Overview

Modern Pentathlon at Tokyo 2020

Venues: Musashino Forest Sport Plaza, Tokyo Stadium

Competition Dates: August 5-7, 2021 (Days 13-15)

Events: 2 (1 men, 1 women)

Trivia: Test your knowledge! 

National Federation: Pentathlon Canada

International Federation: Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM)

Introduced at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, modern pentathlon consists of five sports (fencing, swimming, riding, shooting, running) all contested on the same day. Competitors accumulate points for their results as they move from sport to sport with only a short break in between.

The Olympic program now includes men’s and women’s individual events, with the latter held for the first time at Sydney 2000.


The competition format is as follows:

1) Fencing

There are two parts to the fencing competition: the ranking round, which takes place the day before the rest of the competition, and the bonus round on the full day of competition. In the ranking round, each competitor faces every other competitor in one-minute bouts. The first to score a single hit wins the bout. A competitor who wins 70 per cent of their bouts earns 250 pentathlon points, with every victory over or under that mark worth a specific point value in relation to the total number of competitors. As an example, in a field of 36 athletes, a competitor would need 25 victories to earn the full 250 points while every victory over or under that mark adds or deducts six points.

The start list for the bonus round is based on the results of the ranking round. Each bout is for one hit in 30 seconds. The first bout pits the last-ranked athlete against the athlete ranked next-to-last, with the winner moving on to face the next ranked athlete. Athletes continue to advance as long they win bouts and until everyone has fenced. Each bout won equals one pentathlon point.

2) Swimming

In the 200m freestyle event, a time of two minutes 30 seconds earns 250 pentathlon points. Every half second over or under this time deducts or adds one point. As an example, a time of 2:32.50 is 245 pentathlon points.

Rio 2016: Melanie McCann (Modern Pentathlon)

3) Riding

In the show jumping competition, riders and horses have to clear a series of 12 obstacles (including one double jump and one triple jump) on a course that is 400-450 metres long. Unique to modern pentathlon, the horses are provided by the organizers and assigned to the athletes by random draw. A clear round in the allotted time limit earns 300 pentathlon points. Each second over the time limit is a deduction of one point. Points are also deducted for on-course penalties.

4) Combined Event

Since 2008, the shooting and running disciplines have been combined into one event, with laser pistols used for the shooting. Athletes begin with a staggered start – based on the points standing after the first three events – with the leading athlete the first to go. The rest of the field follows with a one second handicap for every one pentathlon point. There is a short run to the shooting range where athletes are required to hit five targets from a distance of 10m with an unlimited number of shots in less than 50 seconds. This is followed by an 800m run. The shoot-run sequence is repeated three more times for a total of four shooting series and a 3200m run. Because of the handicap start, the first athlete to cross the finish line at the end of the combined event is the overall winner of the modern pentathlon.

Canada’s Olympic History (Pre-Tokyo 2020)

Canada’s best finish in Olympic modern pentathlon came at London 2012 when Melanie McCann finished 11th in the women’s individual event. Canada’s best finish on the men’s side came at Beijing 2008 when Joshua Riker-Fox placed 24th.