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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 April 2004, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Pentathlon goes back to its roots
Britain's Stephanie Cook in action at the Sydney Olympics
Modern pentathlon is a test of the "complete athlete"
Modern pentathlon is the only sport to have been devised specifically for the Games by the International Olympic Committee.

It was introduced in Stockholm in 1912 by the founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, as a more contemporary take on the classical pentathlon.

In ancient times, the pentathlon consisted of discus, javelin, running, jumping and wrestling and was the climax of the Games - a test of the most formidable athletes.

Its modern counterpart was designed to represent the toils of a 19th-century French cavalry officer, forced to shoot, fence, swim, ride and run his way across hostile territory to deliver a message.

De Coubertin's vision was that the event should "test a man's moral qualities as much as his physical resources and skills, producing thereby the ideal, complete athlete".

Pistol shooting
200m swim
Show jumping
3,000m run

The discipline was even adopted by some European military academies as part of their final examinations for soldiers.

Modern pentathlon was initially dominated by Swedish athletes, but in recent years competitors from Hungary and countries from the former Soviet Union have come to the fore.

Russia's Dmitry Svatkovsky claimed the men's gold in Sydney four years ago, with Hungary's Gabor Balogh taking silver and Pavel Dovgal of Belarus bronze.

The sport, which was condensed from a four-day to a one-day competition for Atlanta in 1996, finally welcomed women to the Games in 2000.

Britain's women made a particularly successful debut as Stephanie Cook and Kate Allenby took the gold and bronze medals respectively. American Emily de Riel won silver.

The IOC has approved an increase in the number of entrants for Athens from 48 to 64 (32 men and 32 women), but modern pentathlon is one of the events under threat of being cut from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
Men (since 1912; top five)
Sweden 9 7 5 21
Hungary 8 8 4 20
Soviet Union 5 6 6 17
Poland 3 0 0 3
Italy 2 2 3 7
Women (since 2000)
Great Britain 1 0 1 2
USA 0 1 0 1

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