Modern pentathlon isn’t exactly the most modern Olympic event, but like many sports on the Olympic docket today, it’s implementing new changes. Modern pentathlon debuted in the 1912 Olympics as an event that combined five skills thought to determine the ideal soldier—swimming, fencing, riding, shooting and running.
Today, the shooting and running is combined (similar to the biathlon contested in the Winter Olympics), and athletes face four rounds of shooting followed by an 800-meter run, a drop from the 1000-meter run. Also new to modern pentathlon this Olympics is a fencing knockout round, designed to create a more pressure-packed situation.
While the structure is changing, many of the big names are not. A total of 72 athletes will suit up for the competition in 2016, split between 36 women and 36 men representing 27 countries. The women’s Olympic roster includes all three of the 2012 Olympic medalists as well as fourth-place finisher Margaux Isaksen from the United States. The three male medalists in London, plus fourth place finisher Aleksander Lesun, will also be competing again. With a stacked field of veterans, Rio will bring back old rivalries while also harvesting new ones between those who fight their way into the top of the rankings.
Athletes to watch
Laura Asadauskaite, Lithuania
The defending gold medalist and 2013 world champion will look to make her mark in Rio by becoming the first women in history to win back-to-back Olympics. Last year, Asadauskaite won the European Championships in 2015 after a comeback victory; despite being nearly a minute behind at the start of the run, she blew by 2008 Olympic gold medalist Lena Schoneborn and Elodie Clouvel of France in the final 800 meters. Asadauskaite also won the Kremlin Cup earlier this year, proving her readiness, dominance and consistency in her sport.
Samantha Murray, Great Britain
After capturing the silver medal in London, Murray returns to the games as one of four British pentathlon competitors. The British have claimed one gold, two silvers and two bronzes in the since the induction of the women’s event in 2000, and no other country has earned more than one medal in the sport. Despite no longer competing on her home soil in this year’s event, Murray’s experience will make her a threat in this year’s Games.
Margaux Isaksen, USA
One of two Isaksen sisters competing for the United States this year, Margaux will be participating in her third consecutive pentathlon Olympic Games with her eye on the medal that has escaped her for the past eight years. In 2008, she finished 21st and in ’12, she jumped to fourth, missing the bronze by just two seconds on the final run. Margaux is joined, this year, with her younger sister Isabelle, and the two athletes will strive to put U.S. back on the podium for the first time since Emily de Riel took the silver in 2000.
Lena Schoneborn, Germany
The Gold medalist in Beijing has returned for another shot at glory, and she hopes to improve from her 15th place finish in London to win a second gold medal. Since Beijing, Schoneborn captured victories at the 2015 World Championships, and finished third in the 2009, 2010 and 2016 World Championships, the most recent victory a sign of her strength and ability to make a comeback in Rio. In 2014, Schoneborn earned Berlin’s “Sportsman of the Year,” and she will look to reclaim her spot at the top of women’s pentathlon world this year.
Yane Marques, Brazil
Modern pentathlon came naturally to Yane Marques, and in 2004, only two years into the event, she became a national champion. Twelve years after that breakout performance, Marques will attempt another major feat: earning a gold medal at the Olympics. In 2012, Marques finished third, but the Brazilian native has the opportunity to bring great pride to her country in the historical sport if she can overcome the two strong veterans, Schoneborn and Asadauskaite, to win the gold. Marques most recent accomplishment includes a gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games.
Chloe Esposito, Australia
Esposito, the seventh-place finisher in London, hopes to bring Australia its first modern pentathlon medal in this year’s Games. With her father as her coach and her brother as a teammate, Esposito qualified for the Rio Games by finishing fourth at the Asia/Oceania Olympic Qualifier last June, a significant comeback from two nagging injuries over the past two years on her foot and shoulder.
David Svoboda, Czech Republic
The defending Olympic gold medalist finished 16th at the Rio test event after missing nearly two seasons with injuries. Svoboda will need to draw upon his fencing excellence from London—he won 26 of his 35 matches—if he hopes to beat out some of the younger competitors and capture the gold once again.
Aleksander Lesun, Russia
After several of his teammates were recently banned from the Games for doping issues, Lesun will represent his country as one of three eligible, qualified Russians. Lesun finished finished fourth in London, but has since won the 2014 world championships and European relay championships. Although he too faced injury concerns in 2015, Lesun looks to be ready to go for Rio.
Cao Zhongrong, China
After finishing second to Svoboda in London, Cao comes into his third Olympics looking for redemption. Cao’s 2016 performances so far haven’t been great, including a 24th place finish this May at the world championships in Moscow, a 19th place finish in April at the World Cup in Hungary and a 99th place finish at the World Cup in Rio, the Olympics will give him the opportunity to start fresh and prove himself to the world once again.
Amro and Omar El Geziry, Egypt
In March, Omar captured the silver medal at the Rio World Cup event, the second of the World Cup series events held this year, where he won 21 of his fencing battles and managed a clean ride on his horse, sailing over all of the jumps without a hitch. One month earlier, the younger Egyptian brother, Amro, topped the podium in Egypt to claim his first World Cup title. Amro performed well across all disciplines in his win, earning 24 fencing victories and posting a time of 1:55.89 in his swim.
Most recently, Omar notched a fourth finish in the world championships this May, leading the athletes in the fencing competition where we secured 25 wins. The two brothers will not be the only pair of siblings competing in this year’s Games, and they have a unique relationship with two U.S. siblings who will also be competing in Rio. Amro is married to U.S. Olympic pentathlete Isabelle Isaksen.
Adam Marosi, Hungary
Marosi, who took third in the Rio test event in March, will look to build on the success of historical success of his country in the Modern Penathlon. Hungary, as a nation, has captured 22 medals in the event since 1912, and Marosi claims one of those to his own name already after earning a bronze in London. Marosi will enter the Rio games searching for another World title to add to his 2009 World Championship victory, but he will need to overcome a strong field, including Omar El Geziry, who edged him out for the silver medal in March, if he wants to finish on top.
Jamie Cooke, Great Britain
Jamie Cooke became the first British man to win the modern pentathlon World Cup Final in May, and he narrowly missed out on a medal at the Senior European Championships in July. Cooke has a great chance to be the first British man to win an Olympic medal since Great Britain won bronze in the now-discontinued team event in 1988.