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2008 Summer Olympic Games Preview - Modern Pentathlon

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Shooting, fencing, swimming, equestrian and running. Five disciplines that may appear to have very little in common, but those individual sports come together to form the Olympic event of Modern Pentathlon.

The 'modern' portion of the name helps distinguish the event from the Ancient Olympics' Pentathlon, which has no common events with the current version.

A total of 72 participants, 36 men and 36 women, will compete in the event in Beijing. No more than two men or women from the same country will be allowed to partake in the Modern Pentathlon. If a country qualifies more than two men or two women, the national governing body chooses which athletes will represent it at the Olympics.

Shooting kicks off the Pentathlon, as athletes take 20 shots with a 4.5- millimeter air pistols at 10 meters. A perfect shot earns 10 target points and points are also awarded for shots hitting one of nine outer rings of the target. One lost target point results in a three-second delay in the running segment.

Next up is the fencing portion of the competition where each contestant fences every other athlete in a duel. The first fencer to achieve a good touch is declared the winner and if the bout ends after the one-minute time limit without a hit, both athletes are given a loss. One lost fencing bout equates to a seven-second delay in the running discipline. Winning 25 of 35 bouts (70%) is considered 'par for the course,' earning 1000 Pentathlon points.

Next up is a a 200-meter swim which concentrates more on time than winning individual heats. A time of 2:05 is considered 'par for the course,' earning 1300 Pentathlon points. Every second slower than 2:05 equates to a three- second delay in the running event. Forty-point penalties are given for two false starts or failing to touch the wall at the end of a lap.

In the equestrian segment, athletes compete on 350-450-meter course with 12 hurdles and 15 total jumps. Deductions are given for knocking down a rail, stopping before a jump, falling off the horse, exceeding the designated time limit. A maximum score in show jumping is 1,200 Pentathlon points for an error-free finish under the standard time.

The Pentathlon concludes with a running event on a 3000-meter cross-country course. The leader after four events starts first and every other athlete starts behind the leader based on how many points behind they are. The first athlete to cross the finish line is the Olympic champion, while the second- place finisher will earn the silver medal and the third-place finisher will earn bronze.

Hungary and Sweden have been the best countries in the Modern Pentathlon, as the two nations are tied atop the all-time medal standings with nine golds and 21 medals apiece. Russia is third with five golds and 17 overall medals, while the U.S. is next with six silver and three bronze for a total of nine medals.

Andrey Moiseev of Russia won the gold medal for the men four years ago in Athens and Hungary's Zsuzsanna Voros took the top prize in the women's event. Both pentathletes will be back to defend their titles in Beijing.

The United States is not returning any athletes from the Athens Games in the Pentathlon, but three-time Olympian Sheila Taormina will compete in the event for the first time at the Summer Games.

Taormina won gold medal as part of the women's 4x200m freestyle relay team at the 1996 Atlanta Games and represented the U.S. in the triathlon at the last two Olympics. This summer the 39-year-old will become the first female athlete to complete at the Olympics in three different sports.

Eli Bremer, a captain in the U.S. Air Force, is the top-ranked American in the men's Pentathlon. Bremer like would've made the Athens Games, but a broken foot kept him out of the running. The 30-year-old rebounded after the injury and was the gold medalist at the Pan American Games in both 2006 and '07.

The Modern Pentathlon will be contested on a single day, one day for the men's and another for the women's event, in three separate venues which are all within close proximity of one another.

07/17 13:59:12 ET