The pentathlon has always had an intentional military story-line. The ancient Olympic combination of five sports mirrored their current-day battlefield experiences and techniques. The athletes were soldiers who trained in discus, javelin, long jump, running–in-armour and wrestling. Each sport, with its unique footwork, prepared them in strength and agility for the wars they fought on the ground. Long ago, the pentathlon winner was celebrated as “the winner of all the games.”
The modern pentathlon – with its five new sports – also has a military tale to tell. A liaison officer was once sent by Napoleon into enemy territory to deliver a message. This military courier’s horse was shot down; he needed to defend himself with his sword and his pistol. He swam across a raging river and finally – heroically – arrived at his destination by foot. The disciplines of horsemanship, fencing, shooting, swimming and running reflect this reconstructed battle. Rife with symbolism, the pentathlon embodies pursuit and escape, facing and defying danger. The significance of ‘feet crossing the finish line to deliver the message’ does just that.
Footnote: The requirements of war continue to change; the cavalry now rides in tanks. Sport no longer plays a key role in training. Nor do battle experiences inspire combinations of sports for competition. And yet, the pentathlon models and inspires the modern-day military. Idealism in soldiering has been revived. The pentathlon’s inherent demands of courage, co-ordination, physical fitness, self-discipline and flexibility in ever-changing circumstances frame a mindset for military leadership training on contemporary battlefields. (1)
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV)
TRAINING – COMPETITION – PODIUM