Women’s Pentathlon

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The women’s pentathlon is a part of a series of multi-event competitions. These events owe their origin to the ancient athletic traditions of the ancient Greeks. The word pentathlon has been derived from a Greek word ‘pente’ which means five and ‘athlon’ which means a competition. It stands for a five event competition and it was used by the Ancient Greeks to assess the capacity of men who were in the military service. Athletes participating in pentathlon are known as pentathletes and were regarded to be highly skilled, as the five events played here required a lot of strength, stamina and speed. These were skills were considered to come handy during battles.

The ancient pentathlon was a mix of strength agility and speed. The five events were a short footrace (the distance depended on the venue of the competition), wrestling, long jump, javelin and discus. However, only men could participate in this contest as was prevalent in those times.

Women’s pentathlon was first introduced in the Summer Olympic Games in 1964. The International Olympic Committee took a long time before adding women’s events to the Olympic Games, as there was the general belief that women were not as physically strong as men and could not endure the physical tests which were a part of the pentathlon events. The women’s pentathlon in 1964 had the five events; however they were played over a period of 2 days. The first three events were played on the first day and the latter two on the second day. The events of the first women’s pentathlon were 80m hurdles, shot put, long jump, high jump and the 200m run.

There has been rising demand for ensuring equality and uniformity between the competitions of both the genders across several nations, not just restricted to the number of events but also in maintaining a balance in the nature of events. For example, events associated with field and running led to the replacement of the women’s pentathlon with the heptathlon in 1984. The heptathlon was a longer version of the women’s pentathlon. It consisted of seven events, played over a period of two days. This form of event was welcomed by all, as they felt that an increase in the number of events ensured that the women athletes met greater challenges. Yet, there were certain others who criticized the heptathlon and were of the view that only a decathlon would be a perfect multi-sport event for women, which could maintain a proper balance between the male and female competitions.

The modern pentathlon was another event which was played at the Summer Olympics in 1912. This consisted of five events, pistol shooting, fencing, horse jumping, swimming and cross country running. The IOC also added the triathlon for both men and women in 2000 to add multi-sport competitions for both the sexes.

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