Modern Pentathlon Explained

Modern pentathlon is Pentathlon GB's flagship sport, offering the ultimate test of fitness, courage and skill. Comprising of five traditional sports competed over one day, modern pentathlon has been a core part of the Olympic Games since 1912.

The Five Disciplines


Athletes compete in a 50, 100 or 200m freestyle swim depending on age group.

  • Athletes are seeded in heats according their personal best times.
  • 250 points are awarded based on an optimum time for each age group.
  • Athletes gain 1 point for each 0.5 second they are quicker than this optimum time and lose 1 point for each 0.5 second they are slower than this optimum time.


Athletes fence every other competitor using electric epees and this is the only discipline where competitors can influence another athlete’s score.

  • Bouts are fenced for one hit and last a maximum of one minute. Depending on the number of competitors, the number of bouts fenced against each other athlete may be increased to two, three or even four hits.
  • If neither fencer has scored a hit within the time limit, a double defeat will be recorded.
  • The target area is the whole body and hits are registered via an electronic tip at the end of the epee.
  • Points are awarded based on the number of wins and losses during the competition with 250 modern pentathlon points given for 70% victories.


Athletes ride an unfamiliar horse over a series of 9-12 show-jumps (which may include a double and a triple).

  • The leading athlete after the previous disciplines draws their horse by lot.
  • On the basis of this draw, the other horses (which have been previously numbered) are allocated to the other competitors.
  • The athletes have just 20 minutes in the warm-up arena over five practice jumps before starting their round.
  • Each athlete starts with 300 points, with points deducted for refusals (10), fences being knocked down (7) and time faults (1 per second).
  • If an athlete is eliminated they do not receive any points.


The laser-run is the climax to the competition and athletes begin with a handicapped start, based on the results of the previous disciplines.

  • Athletes run between 800m and 3,200m depending on their age with each run preceded by a shoot.
  • Only after getting 5 green lights by hitting the valid zone of the target (using an unlimited number of shots) OR after a time of 50 seconds has elapsed can the competitor begin their next run.
  • Shooting is with any 4.5mm (.177") calibre compressed air or laser pistol.
  • Thanks to the handicap start, the first athlete to cross the line is the winner of the competition.

For more detailed scoring on all of the disciplines and event information please look at the rule book in the resources section.