Modern pentathlon looks a lot different for the 2024 Paris Olympics than it did at its first Olympics in 1912. Here's the format to expect in Paris.

What is the new format for the Olympic modern pentathlon?

For the Paris Games, here are the disciplines of modern pentathlon:

  • Riding: A show jumping course on an unfamiliar horse that the athlete is given randomly just 20 minutes before they compete
  • Fencing: (split into two rounds): A ranking round where each athlete competes against each athlete in a bout lasting one minute or until the first hit, and a bonus round. The bonus round is single elimination, with each bout lasting 45 seconds.
  • Swimming: 200m freestyle event
  • Running and shooting (combined event): A laser-run where athletes switch between running and shooting at five targets from a distance of 10 meters

Those disciplines have historically been completed over the course of many hours or even days.

But in Paris, as the sport aims to boost its popularity, the semifinal and final will both be condensed into 90-minute competitions with a new order of events.

Here's the schedule for the semifinals and finals, which will be hosted at the legendary Palace of Versailles:

  • 35 minutes of equestrian (showjumping)
  • 5-minute break
  • 20 minutes of fencing (épee) - bonus round
  • 10-minute break
  • 15 minutes of swimming (200m freestyle)
  • 15-minute break
  • 20-minute combined event (laser run: a discipline that involves cross country running and laser pistol shooting in many sequences)

Modern pentathlon, which debuted at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, is looking to make the sport more fluid, so that fans can understand it, according to Klaus Schormann, Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) president.

The shorter format isn’t the only change coming to modern pentathlon: after the Paris Olympics, an obstacle course discipline will replace horse riding. But for now, the horses remain.

How do you win the Olympic modern pentathlon?

Athletes accumulate points according to how they rank in the fencing, riding and swimming events, which determine where they start in the laser run event. The first athlete to cross the finish line in the laser-run has scored the most points and wins the gold medal.


The fencing ranking round will take place on the first day of competition, utilizing nine fencing pistes. Each athlete will fence against all other athletes (35 bouts) with an electric epee. The target will be the whole body. A bout will end with one hit within the time limit of one minute. If a hit is not scored within one minute, both competitors will register a defeat. 70% victories (winning 25 bouts) will earn an athlete 250 points. Each additional victory will add six points, and each additional defeat will deduct six points.

Then the fencing bonus round will take place on the second day of competition, utilizing a single fencing piste. The time limit will be reduced to 45 seconds. Pentathletes will be ordered according to their position from the ranking round. The competition will be carried out in reverse order, beginning with the last-place athlete going against the next-placed athlete. The winner will receive one bonus point and advance to compete against the next best-ranked athlete. Athletes will not lose points if they are defeated. In the case of a double defeat (no hit is scored within 45 seconds), the winner of the bout will be the athlete ranked higher on the start list.


In the swimming event, athletes will be seeded into heats according to their Pentathlon World Ranking swimming time. They will be allowed to use any stroke or style to complete the 200m freestyle race. 

A time of two minutes, 30 seconds will earn an athlete 250 points. Every one third of a second above or below two minutes, 30 seconds will be equal to plus or minus one point.


Athletes will be assigned an unfamiliar horse. They will have 20 minutes and a maximum of five practice jumps to warm-up the animal. The start order will be the reverse of the ranking after the previous events.

The course will feature 12 show-jumping obstacles (15 total jumps with one double combination and one triple combination) set no more than 1.2 meters (4 feet) high.

Completing the round in the time allowed will earn an athlete 300 points. Penalty points will be deducted.

Combined Event (Running and Shooting)

The combined event will begin with a handicapped start, based on the results after the previous events. The leader will start first, followed by the next-placed pentathlete, who will start one second later for every one point trailed (example: a four-point advantage would allow the leader a head start of four seconds).  

Athletes will run a total distance of 3200m. There will be four shooting stops where athlete will aim a laser pistol at five electronic targets. Athletes will be allowed to resume running after hitting the five targets with an unlimited number of shots, or after 50 seconds, whichever happens first. 

The first pentathlete to cross the finish line in the combined event will be declared the winner of the competition. An athlete will earn 500 points for a time of 13 minutes, 20 seconds. Every one second above or below 13 minutes, 20 seconds will be equal to plus or minus one point.