What Is the New Format for Modern Pentathlon?

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Key Takeaways

  • The modern pentathlon format has been updated for the 2024 Paris Olympics to be more dynamic and viewer-friendly.
  • The new format condenses the 5 events into a 90-minute block consisting of riding, fencing bonus round, swimming, and laser run.
  • Riding comes first and is reduced to 35 minutes, followed by fencing, swimming 200 meters, and finally laser run with shooting and running.
  • The finals will begin with riding and close with the laser run to create more drama and excitement for spectators.
  • The changes aim to increase visibility, coverage, and youth appeal for the demanding multi-sport event.


The modern pentathlon has been an Olympic sport since 1912, providing a unique test of speed, strength, agility, and mental flexibility across five very diverse events. However, the traditional format has also been critiqued at times for being too drawn-out and lacking spectator appeal. As the modern pentathlon seeks to maintain its place in the Olympic program for Paris 2024 and beyond, the format has been significantly updated to deliver a more dynamic, condensed and television-friendly competition.

This article will comprehensively examine the details of the brand new modern pentathlon format. We’ll analyze the motivation for changing the format, explain each of the revamped events in order, and highlight how the new finals structure aims to elevate drama and viewer engagement. Whether you’re a modern pentathlon fan eager to understand the changes or simply an avid Olympics viewer, this guide will provide crucial insight into this historic update to a long-standing Olympic tradition. By the end, you’ll have a clear picture of how modern pentathlon at Paris 2024 will retain the essence of the sport while evolving to meet modern expectations.

What Prompted the Change to the Modern Pentathlon Format?

The modern pentathlon has faced pressure in recent Olympic cycles to reform its format to sustain Olympic status. What factors led to this push for change?

Declining Popularity and Viewership

While revered for its legacy, modern pentathlon has struggled to captivate viewers and establish media presence in the current age of visually dynamic, fast-paced sports. The multi-day competition format spread across different venues also inhibited consistent live coverage and made it hard for viewers to follow. This hindered the growth of modern pentathlon’s fanbase.

Calls to Streamline and Enhance Presentation

Experts increasingly stressed the need to condense and restructure the format for improved presentation. The complex scoring system was also critiqued as confusing. There were calls to unify the setting in one venue and package the action for straightforward live coverage within a compressed schedule.

Pressure from IOC to Justify Olympic Status

With space limited in each Olympics program, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) required assurance that modern pentathlon could enhance youth appeal and viewership. Keeping riding while making the format more compact and exciting became a priority to remain relevant.

Drive to Broaden Appeal Globally

Modern pentathlon aimed to showcase its demanding skills before a wider audience while also attracting more youth participants. Updating the format was seen as crucial for engaging the next generation of athletes worldwide and growing the sport at large.

Overview of Key Changes to Modern Pentathlon Events

In response to the factors above, UIPM (the International Modern Pentathlon Union) devised a substantial competition format update focused on condensing the action to 90 minutes or less per finals session. Here are the key changes:


  • Reduced from show jumping across multiple days to just 35 minutes of riding.
  • Will take place in arena on unfamiliar horses drawn at random.
  • Fewer obstacles than before which are easier for unfamiliar horses and riders.


  • Shortened significantly from round-robin pool play to just 1 round of 20 touches.
  • The round will serve as a “bonus round” in the finals.


  • Shortened from 200m to just 100m freestyle.

Laser Run

  • Racing format combining shooting and running now covers 3200m total.
  • Laser guns used for shooting 5 targets from 10 meters after each 800m run leg.
  • Misses add a short penalty loop of just 10 seconds each.

Overall Finals Format

  • Starts with riding, followed by fencing bonus round, 100m swim, and finally laser run.
  • Designed as 90 minute block of live, continuous action at one venue location.

Details on Riding, Fencing, Swimming, and Laser Run

Now that you understand the main changes, let’s take a closer look at how each revised event will work in the new modern pentathlon format.

How Will the New Riding Component Work?

  • 35 minutes of competitive riding total
  • In arena setting rather than open jumping course
  • Riders are assigned horses at random by lottery
  • Horses provided by host nation to ensure unfamiliar mounts for all
  • Max 15 obstacles to jump, shorter in height for unpredictability
  • Focus is adaptability to an unknown horse

The riding will kick off the finals. By having athletes assigned random horses, the event will test riders’ flexibility and feel for unfamiliar mounts. They must adapt their approach in just 20 minutes of warm up. With fewer and lower obstacles in the compact arena setting, the emphasis will be on horsemanship and relationship rather than complex jumps. This condensed test of riding skill will set the tone as the first finals event.

What Will the Fencing Bonus Round Entail?

  • Just 1 round of fencing
  • 20 touches/points to score, maximum time 2.5 minutes
  • Part of finals as a ‘bonus round’ after riding
  • Chance to gain extra points toward overall score
  • Top athletes from riding start with points advantage
  • Emphasis on excitement rather than round-robin format

The fencing has been transformed into a rapid, decisive bonus opportunity. By placing it after the riding, athletes will either take a points lead or deficit into the bonus round based on their riding performance. This adds drama as some aim to defend a lead and others seek to catch up. The shortened format focused on touches rather than matches also allows fencing specialists a chance to thrill viewers without being dulled by the previous lengthy round-robin pool play.

What Will the Swimming Section Look Like?

  • 100 meters in length
  • Freestyle stroke
  • Indoor or outdoor pool
  • Condensed test of speed and technical skill

By reducing the swim to just 100 meters, it becomes a burst of athleticism rather than endurance. Athletes can charge full speed in a short sprint that still tests their technical skill, strength, and speed in the water. This keeps swimming as a key component but streamlines it within the new format. Like the fencing, the emphasis is on excitement and viewer engagement rather than grueling endurance.

How Will the Laser Run Work as the Final Event?

  • 5 rounds combining shooting and running
  • 800m run, 5 laser shots, 800m run, 5 laser shots, etc.
  • Total of 3200 meters of running
  • 10 second penalty loops added for each missed shot
  • Tests accuracy, speed, stamina, and mental focus

Shooting and running have been combined into a new biathlon-style event culminating the finals. The constant transitions between precision shooting and sprints of 800 meters will demand tremendous physical endurance, mental acuity, concentration, and composure under fatigue. With misses punishable by small 10-second penalties rather than adding full minutes, the stakes are lower to encourage aggressive speed. This spectator-friendly new event will crown the champion by testing every skill in an exciting, continuous race format.

How Will the New Finals Presentation Highlight the Action?

Beyond changing the individual events themselves, modern pentathlon leaders also carefully designed an overarching finals format that emphasizes continuous live action and unfolding drama:

  • Starts with riding as initial qualifier
  • Fencing bonus round adds volatility after riding
  • Swimming provides change of pace between technical events
  • Laser run finish maximizes suspense and fatigue drama

Rather than spaced out over days, the entire finals will take place as a consolidated 90 minute television program. It will begin with riding as the initial qualifier, with each athlete getting a point total based on performance. The fencing bonus will allow top riders a chance to add to their advantage or let those who struggled make up ground. Swimming shifts to a brisk change of pace before the laser run settles all scores with its combination of shooting precision, athletic speed, and mental stamina under total exhaustion.

By concluding with the laser run, athletes will often end in a pack, leading to maximum excitement at the finish. Overall, the order and pacing aim to provide continuous action that builds anticipation through different tests of skill, without lulls or front-runners. Get ready for a thrilling new form of modern pentathlon!

Frequently Asked Questions About the New Format

How were these changes developed and decided?

  • Extensive consultation process from 2017-2021.
  • Athletes, coaches, experts provided input.
  • Test events held to analyze potential formats.
  • Final proposal approved by UIPM Congress in November 2021.

What are athletes saying about the changes?

  • Many welcome new opportunities like fencing bonus.
  • Concerns from some about loss of tradition.
  • Positive feedback on presentation, but mixed on specific event tweaks.
  • Generally believe it will make pentathlon more dynamic as a spectator sport.

Will this change modern pentathlon permanently?

  • New format planned for 2024 Olympics only initially.
  • Allows ‘test run’ for analysis and feedback.
  • Future tweaks possible based on learnings before finalizing permanent changes.

Why was laser run chosen versus other combined events?

  • Showcases shooting precision and demands athletic speed.
  • Appeals to youth and aligns with laser pistol/rifle training.
  • Logistically simpler than horse riding combinations.
  • Delivers visually clear, exciting live action.

Could modern pentathlon lose its Olympic status in the future?

  • IOC has required reforms to events like boxing, weightlifting.
  • UIPM focused on revamping format for youth appeal, popularity.
  • Strong hope that changes will strengthen modern pentathlon’s Olympic future.

The Future of Modern Pentathlon

Modern pentathlon as we know it is about to undergo a major evolution at the Paris 2024 Olympics. The revamped format represents an ambitious effort to transform its presentation for the digital era while retaining the sport’s unique appeal rooted in versatility and adaptability across very diverse challenges. If the changes achieve their aims, modern pentathlon could see heightened visibility, youth engagement, and sustainability into the distant future.

There will no doubt be a period of adjustment for longtime devotees of the traditional format. But most indications suggest modern pentathlon is ready to embrace change and has devised updates that retain the sport’s essence while positioning it firmly for the future. When the best all-around athletes convene in Paris, we’ll witness a long-standing Olympic tradition reimagined, but still founded on the ultimate test of physical skill, mental flexibility, and determination

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