In looking for unknown events to feature prior to the start of the games, I came across many possibilities. However, even though Canoeing and Equestrian aren't exactly mainstream events featured in prime time, most people at least know what they are. The same cannot be said of Modern Pentathlon. I thought I knew what it was, but I was actually thinking of the Decathlon, an event calling for an individual to compete in many different aspects of Track and Field over a 2 day period. I quickly realized how wrong I was.
Modern Pentathlon is actually one of the oldest events in the Modern Olympics. It was created by the Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France, who was also the founder of the modern Olympic Games themselves. He created the Pentathlon to be an event that not only showed the athletic prowess of the competitor but also their culture and class.
The Pentathlon calls for competitors to compete in 5 events in a single day's time. The events are: epee fencing, pistol shooting, 200m freestyle swimming, a show-jumping equestrian event and culminates in a 3K run. It wasn't always a single day event but was changed to try and make it more marketable in recent years due to it's lack of worldwide popularity. To add to the drama, points are calculated throughout the first 4 events and then the participants start the 3K race staggered in order of points earned so that the winner of the race is the winner of the competition.
The Men's Pentathlon has long been dominated by European Nations, with 9 of the last 10 World Champions faring from a European country. The reigning champion is Ilia Frolov(pictured left) of Russia, who won the title at the recent World Championships held in Budapest, Hungary. Where the World's was held mere weeks before the start of the Beijing Games he has to be considered the favorite heading into the 2008 Games.
Eli Bremer(pictured right), the Pan-American Games Champion is the top American qualifier but after finishing just 12th at the World's he is considered a long shot for a medal in Beijing.
In the Women's event the odd's on favorite has to be Amelia Caze of France who is the 2 time reigning World Champion. Her margin of victory at the 2008 Championships was only 20 points over her closest competitor, Aya Medany of Egpyt.
Both Margaux Isaksen and Sheila Taormina(pictured) will participate for the U.S. Team although neither fared well at the recent World's and neither is considered a strong medal contender.
Taormina does have an interesting story though as this is the third different Olympic event she has qualified for. She won a swimming relay Gold at the 1996 Games in Atlanta and then competed in the Triathlon during both the 2000 and 2004 Games. At 39 years old she will be one of the oldest athletes competing in the Pentathlon.