In 1912, Pierre de Fredy, Baron of Coubertin, and founder of the modern Olympic Games immortalized an unknown 19th century French military liaison rider.
Or he may have been German, Polish or Hungarian, depending on who's telling the story.
Anyhoo, this courier was riding with dispatches when enemy skirmishers killed his horse. He was apparently a man of some bravery, because he promptly killed several of his attackers with his saddle pistol, before escaping with his papers intact.
On foot, behind enemy lines, the courier continued his mission, being forced to engage more troops with his sword, escaping across a river, before finally delivering the dispatches at a run.
At the 1912 Olympic Games held in Stockholm, Sweden, in honour of this dispatch rider, de Coubertin introduced the Modern Pentathlon.
Little known in the United States, the Modern Pentathlon consists of five events.
Each athlete must complete a 350-450 meter course of 15 jumps on horseback. The horse the athlete uses is provided by the hosting organisation, and the rider first meets his horse 20 minutes before the start of the race.
A rapid-fire pistol course tests the athlete's marksmanship skills. Originally a .22LR on turning targets at 25 metres; in this modern fluffy bunny world, the pistol course is now a .177 air pistol at 10 metres -- 20 shots at 20 targets with 40 seconds allowed per shot.
Swordsmanship is demonstrated by way of the epee, with each athlete fighting a match against every other contender -- first touch ends each match.
The swimming part is demonstrated in a 200 metre free-style swim.
Last, but certainly not least, the 3 kilometre cross-country foot-race. Not a 3000 metre run on track -- the course must be held over open or rough terrain.
Traditionally, the events were held over a four or five day period, however, beginning at the 1996 Games, all five events are completed in one day.
In this years Beijing Games, Pistol starts at 0830 Local Time;
Epee starts at 1000;
Swimming at 1430;
Riding at 1700;
and ending with the Cross-Country Run at 2000 Local Time.
And you think you have a rough twelve hours.
One of the medal contenders in that first Modern Pentathlon was a very young Lieutenant George Patton of the United States. Unfortunately, LT Patton turned in a dismal performance in, of all things, pistol, which knocked him down to fifth place.
Seems he made up for his disappointment by using tanks in his later interpersonal conflicts.
For several decades after 1912 the Modern Pentathlon was limited to military participants, until Lars Hall, a Swedish civilian, won the gold medal at the 1952 Olympiad at Helsinki, Finland.
Stephanie Cook of Great Britain broke the male-only restriction at the 2000 Sydney games in a close-run, finger-nail-biting win in the Women's Modern Pentathlon.
Despite the fact that the Modern Pentathlon was specifically created for the Olympic Games by the father of the Modern Olympics, its future is hazy.
Little known to the general public outside of Eastern Europe, the Modern Pentathlon doesn't draw huge crowds, nor multi-million-dollar endorsements. It is, however, every bit as athletic as any other Olympic sport -- and more so than some.
Mens Modern Pentathlon will be Thursday, Aug 21; and Womens Modern Pentathlon will be the next day.
Hopefully we'll get some decent coverage of the guys and gals before the Modern Pentathlon fades into history in favour of Doubles Basketweaving, or somesuch Politically Correct, no-icky-guns, non-violent, anti-militaristic bushwa.