17 September 2019
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

Getting started – Modern Pentathlon

August 3, 2009
heather-fell-1

Heather Fell, 2008 Olympic silver medallist gives her top tips about how to get started in modern pentathlon.

I’m Heather Fell and in 2014 I retired from modern pentathlon having represented Britain for over seven years.  My biggest achievement has been silver at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and I also came home with silver at the 2007 World Championships and 2009 European Championships.

I’m now working in the media and have also taken up sailing and  I will join the world’s largest amateur round-the-world sailing race in Jamaica aboard the Jamaica Get All Right boat on May 24!

  Here’s my introduction to the sport of Modern Pentathlon, so you will have all the knowledge you need to give it a go yourself.

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What’s it all about?

Modern Pentathlon originates from the romantic image of the ultimate man whose horse is brought down in enemy territory and he then defends himself using his pistol and sword, swims across a raging river and finally runs to personally deliver a message. Athletes competing in modern pentathlons today complete each of these tasks one after another.

More about each discipline

The riding discipline is intended to be a test of horsemanship with athletes given 20 minutes to practice on an unfamiliar horse before competing on a show-jumping course. We then fire 10-20 shots to a bull’s eye target using a pistol before moving on to fence using epee swords aiming to hit our opponent once within a time limit of one minute.

The swimming event is a freestyle race in which we are scored based on the time category we complete the race in and finally the pentathlon finishes with a run ranging from 1,000 – 3,000m depending on the level of the competition. Each athlete is given a score out of 1000 for each event and the winner is the person who has accumulated the most points over the course of the five events.

Any favourites?

As each discipline in Modern Pentathlon is so specific it’s really tough to choose a favourite, however having grown up around horses and ridden all my life I particularly enjoy the riding event. My least favourite is probably the fencing as it’s the only event in which your competitor can affect your own performance. Also it tends to leave you with some unsightly bruises!

How to train

When training for the Modern Pentathlon you and your coach have to maintain a clever balance between technique and endurance so you get as much practice as possible without becoming over tired or stale. Coaches usually encourage athletes to spend more time on their weaker discipline, balancing the physical and mental skills of each.

What skills do I need?

To succeed in Modern Pentathlon you need all round skills because each discipline is so very different. Physical fitness is really important for all disciplines bar maybe shooting, but particularly for the running and swimming events. Having the right equipment is also important as the disciplines are so individual. I’m lucky as I get most of my kit from adidas but for starting out you can easily pick up second hand equipment or you can usually borrow kit from your local club; I didn’t own my own fencing kit for years. Shooting is the most individual as the gun needs to suit you, so you can’t really just borrow some one else’s as they are set up especially for you.

How to get involved

To get involved you can find a local club by contacting the pentathlon HQ at www.pentathlongb.org or you can look for individual clubs in each discipline to discover if you like and are suited to all the sports before committing! The most important thing when starting out is to enjoy all the sports and make friends along the way – it comes a huge part of your life and I certainly wouldn’t train as hard as I do if I didn’t enjoy it.

Heather Fell, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

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