pentathlon (pĕntăthˈlən) [key], composite athletic event. In ancient Greece it comprised leaping, foot racing, wrestling, discus throwing, and casting the javelin. The modern pentathlon, an Olympic games contest for men since 1912, comprises a cross-country horseback ride, a cross-country run, a swimming race, épée fencing, and pistol shooting; women first competed in the pentathlon in the 2000 Olympics. In 2008 the governing body for the sport voted to combine the run and pistol shooting in one element. From 1964 to 1980 what is now the women's Olympic track-and-field contest known as the heptathlon (see under decathlon) was a five-event contest called the pentathlon.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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