Modern pentathlon is a unique combination of five different sports in one complex. It combines competitions different in focus and spirit such as: fencing (emotions, endurance, reaction time), swimming (physical endurance), jumping (to find a common language with an unfamiliar horse), running and shooting (a complex-combination program, which involves physical endurance, the ability to control breath and arm strength, as well as an enviable psychological endurance).
The idea of pentathlon is not new. The program of the Olympic and other athletic games in ancient Greece included pentathlon as well (literally - "five races"), which consisted of running, wrestling, long jump and javelin and disc throwing. Availability of appropriate skills was considered a requirement for a skilled warrior at that time, and a victory at the Olympics in this kind of program was considered the most honorable.
For the first time modern pentathlon competitions were held in the 2nd half of XIX century in Sweden. After that other countries started to hold officers’ pentathlon competitions, which was a type of sports complex consisting of several sporting disciplines, reflecting the essence of military training of officers at the time (riding, fencing, shooting, swimming, running). Since 1912 on the initiative of P. de Coubertin, who developed the complex of officers’ pentathlon, was included in the pentathlon Olympic program.
The first ever champion, became the Swede Gustaf Lilliehöök, who managed to get around 32 competitors. It is noteworthy that up until 1948 only officers could take part in modern pentathlon, which was then called "the Olympic officers’ pentathlon" (for example, George S.Patton represented the United States at the Olympics in 1912, who became the famous military commander of the Second World War later), and the competitions themselves, as can be seen by the very name, were held solely at the Olympics.
In 1948 the International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM) was created. One of its founders and the first president is Gustaf Dyrssen (Sweden), a former Olympic champion (1920).
In 1949 under the auspices of the new Union Stockholm hosted the first World Championships in modern pentathlon, won by the Swede Tage Bjurfeldt. His success was quite natural, because in the period from 1912 to 1956 inclusive, pentathletes from Sweden won ever at the Olympics (the only exception - Olympic Games 1936, when the victory went to the representative of Germany). Overall, the Swedish athletes won nine times on the Olympic pentathlon competition in the individual competition. At the same time, Lars Hall won the Olympic Games twice (1952 and 1956), he also became the first "civil" world champion ever in 1950, repeating his success one year later.
In the 1950s, there had been significant change in pentathlon. Athletes of Hungary and USSR took the leading positions. They were more victorious (4 times) than others in the team Olympic tournament, which had been included in the Olympic program from 1952 to 1992 (the result of the team was formed from the individual performance of participants). The same number of times the representatives of Hungary won the individual Olympic titles. It is worth noting Baltsem András, the champion of Olympic Games (1972) and five-times world champion in the individual competition. Three times at the Olympics the representatives of the USSR (Russia) won: Anatoly Starostin (1980), Dmitry Svatkovsky (2000) and Andrei Moiseev (2004). There are personal victories at the World Cup in the asset of our sportsmen. At the same time, Igor Novikov and Paul Lednev won the world title four times. (Lednev also has a kind of an Olympian achievement: winning "gold" in the USSR team for the second time in a row at the age of 37 in 1980, he became the oldest Olympic pentathlon champion in history). The most number of times the World Cup in team competition was won by Hungarian pentathletes (17 victories). Slightly inferior to them are our athletes (14 victories).
In the 1970s, the Polish pentathletes have noticeably improved their athletic performance, a little later athletes of Great Britain, Czechoslovakia, Italy and France joined them, and Swedish masters reaffirmed themselves. Among the strongest masters of pentathlon in 1970-2000-x were: Janusz Pyciak-Peciak and Arkadiusz Skrzypaszek (both from Poland), Daniele Masala (Italy), Sebastien Deleigne (France), Andrejus Zadneprovskis (Lithuania), etc.
The World Cup for women has been held since 1981. Anne Ahlgren from Sweden became the first champion. The biggest winner is Eva Fjellerup from Denmark with 4 singles’ titles. Zsuzsanna Voros of Hungary won three World Cup titles and is one of the current leaders of women's pentathlon. Soviet athlete Irina Kiseleva was the strongest twice (1986, 1987). There are no equal athletes in team competition to those of Poland yet, who have 9 wins. Representatives of the United Kingdom were ranked first 6 times, whereas our compatriots – four.
Women's pentathlon is included in the Olympic program since 2000. In Sydney, the strongest was Stephanie Cook (UK), and at the Olympics in Athens - Zsuzsanna Voros.