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a sports contest involving five events: namely, a steeplechase, fencing with épées (bouts are fought until the first touch with each participant in the competition), rapid-fire shooting from a small-caliber pistol (20 shots in four series), swimming (300-m freestyle), and a cross-country race over broken terrain (4,000 m for adults and 3,000 m for juniors). Competitions are held over a period of five days with one event per day. The overall final rankings of the participants are determined by the sum of the points received in each event.
Composite sports events applying skills and abilities necessary for a soldier have been known since ancient times, for example, the pentathlon in the ancient Greek Olympic Games. During the second half of the 19th century in Sweden, and subsequently in other countries, competitions were held in a military pentathlon—a sports contest reflecting the essence of an officer’s military training; the events included horseback riding, fencing, shooting, swimming, and running. In 1912 a form of military pentathlon developed by P. de Courbetin was included in the Olympic Games. Until 1948 only officer-athletes were allowed to take part in competitions.
The current name for this composite event was acquired in 1948, when the International Pentathlon Union (Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne et Biathlon, UIPMB) was founded in London. In 1974 the UIPMB united 44 national federations.
Since 1949 world championships in the pentathlon have been held every year, except in the years of Olympic Games. Since 1965 annual competitions have been held for juniors as well. In the USSR the first pentathlon competitions were held in 1947, and national championships have been held every year since 1953. In 1952 the pentathlon was included in the Uniform All-Union Sports Classification, and the USSR Federation of the Modern Pentathlon was established, becoming a member of the UIPMB that same year. In 1974 about 5,000 athletes in the USSR were engaged in the pentathlon, including approximately 250 masters of sports, as well as 38 honored masters of sports and honored coaches.
The pentathlon has attained its greatest development in Hungary, the USSR, Sweden, the USA, Finland, France, Italy, the Federal Republic of Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, and Bulgaria. At the Olympic Games the individual championship has been won nine times by the pentathletes of Sweden and three times by those of Hungary. The team championship (established in 1952) has been won three times each by athletes from Hungary and the USSR. At the world championships, USSR pentathletes have won nine individual and nine team championships; the Hungarians have won seven individual and seven team championships; and the Swedes have won four individual and four team championships. Among the world champions are the Soviet athletes I. A. Novikov, K. P. Sal’nikov, E. S. Sdobnikov, B. G. Onishchenko, and P. S. Lednev. L. Hall (Sweden) and A. Balczó (Hungary) have won the world and Olympic championships several times.
Since the 1970’s modern pentathlon contests for women have been organized in the USSR, France, Austria, Great Britain, and other countries.
O. I. CHUVILIN