Women's pentathlon

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This article is about the track and field event. For the multi-sport event, see Modern pentathlon.
Nadezhda Tkachenko competing in the shot put event at the 1980 Olympic pentathlon, where she won the gold medal

The pentathlon or women's pentathlon is a combined track and field event in which each woman competes in five separate events over one day (formerly two days). The distance or time for each event is converted to points via scoring tables, with the overall ranking determined by total points.[1] Since 1949 the events have been sprint hurdling, high jump, shot put, long jump, and a flat race.[2] The sprint hurdles distance was 80 m outdoors until 1969 and thereafter 100 m; in indoor pentathlon the distance is 60 m. The flat race was 200 m until 1976 and thereafter 800 m.[3] In elite-level outdoor competition, the pentathlon was superseded in 1981 by the heptathlon, which has seven events, with both 200 m and 800 m, as well as the javelin throw.[4] Pentathlon is still contested at school and masters[5] level and indoors.


Nataliya Dobrynska celebrating her pentathlon win at the 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships

The word pentathlon is derived from the Greek pente (five) and athlon (contest). The ancient Olympic pentathlon comprised a sprint, the javelin and discus throws, long jump, and wrestling. The modern pentathlon is a multi-sport event. In men's track and field, pentathlon competitions were held in the 20th century, but the ten-event decathlon became the standard multi-event contest.

The International Women's Sports Federation was established in 1921 and the first reported pentathlon was in 1922 in Monte Carlo.[2] The events were: 60 m, 300 m, high jump, two-hand javelin, and two-hand shot.[2] In the late 1920s, the events were: shot and long jump on the first day, and 100 m, high jump, and javelin on the second day.[2] The first world record recognised by the IAAF was set at the 1934 Women's World Games by Gisela Mauermayer.[2]

From 1949 the events were: shot, high jump, and 200 m on the first day; 80 m hurdles and long jump on the second.[2] The scoring tables were changed in 1954, and again in 1971.[2] In 1961, the order of the events was changed to: 80 m hurdles, shot, and high jump on the first day; long jump and 200 m on the second.[2] From 1977 all were contested in a single day.[2] Pentathlon was contested at the European Athletics Championships from 1950 to 1978, and at the Olympics from 1964 until 1980.[2] The IAAF has not ratified world records in outdoor pentathlon since replacing it in 1981 with the heptathlon.[6][7]

Olympic medalists[edit]

Games Gold Silver Bronze
1964 Tokyo
 Irina Press (URS)  Mary Rand (GBR)  Galina Bystrova (URS)
1968 Mexico City
 Ingrid Becker (FRG)  Liese Prokop (AUT)  Annamária Tóth (HUN)
1972 Munich
 Mary Peters (GBR)  Heide Rosendahl (FRG)  Burglinde Pollak (GDR)
1976 Montreal
 Siegrun Siegl (GDR)  Christine Laser (GDR)  Burglinde Pollak (GDR)
1980 Moscow
 Nadezhda Tkachenko (URS)  Olga Rukavishnikova (URS)  Olga Kuragina (URS)


The pentathlon is still held indoors, where the heptathlon cannot be held as arenas are too small for the javelin throw. It was added to the IAAF World Indoor Championships as an unofficial event in 1993 and officially in 1995. The indoor pentathlon is held over a one-day period. Each athlete completes one event at the same time, then there is a 30-minute break until the next event. The current world record is 5013 points by Nataliya Dobrynska at the 2012 World Indoor Championships.[6]

60 metres hurdles
High jump
Shot put
Long jump
800 metres
All-time top ten athletes[8]
Rank Score Athlete Location Date
1 5013  Nataliya Dobrynska (UKR) Istanbul 9 March 2012
2 5000  Katarina Johnson-Thompson (GBR) Prague 6 March 2015
3 4991  Irina Belova (RUS) Berlin 15 February 1992
4 4965  Jessica Ennis (GBR) Istanbul 9 March 2012
5 4948  Carolina Klüft (SWE) Madrid 4 March 2005
6 4927  Kelly Sotherton (GBR) Birmingham 2 March 2007
7 4896  Ekaterina Bolshova (RUS) Moscow 7 February 2012
8 4881  Brianne Theisen-Eaton (CAN) Portland 18 March 2016
9 4877  Tia Hellebaut (BEL) Ghent 11 February 2007
10 4866  Svetlana Moskalets (RUS) Chelyabinsk 3 February 1995
World record progression
Athlete Country Points Event results Location Date
Sabine John  East Germany 4768 8.16 s, 1.74 m, 14.76 m, 6.61 m, 2:15.63 Moscow, Soviet Union 15 February 1985
Irina Belova  Russia 4991 8.22 s, 1.93 m, 13.25 m, 6.67 m, 2:10.26 Berlin, Germany 15 February 1992
Nataliya Dobrynska  Ukraine 5013 8.38 s, 1.84 m, 16.51 m, 6.57 m, 2:11.15 Istanbul, Turkey 9 March 2012
World records (WR) compared to Pentathlon Bests (PB)[original research?]
Event Type Athlete Record Score Difference in points scored Ref
60 m hurdles
WR Susanna Kallur 7.68 s 1204
PB Jessica Ennis 7.91 s 1150 −54 [9]
High jump
WR Kajsa Bergqvist 2.08 m 1345
PB Tia Hellebaut 1.99 m 1224 −121
Shot put
WR Helena Fibingerová 22.50 m 1369
PB Eva Wilms 20.27 m 1217 −152
Long jump
WR Heike Drechsler 7.37 m 1299
PB Katarina Johnson-Thompson 6.89 m 1135 −164 [10]
800 m
WR Jolanda Čeplak 1:55.82 1182
PB Ester Goossens 2:04.42 1048 −134
Total World record 6399
Pentathlon bests 5748 −651

Contemporary outdoor pentathlon[edit]

As well as indoor events at all levels, outdoor pentathlon is still common in high school athletics. It is simply a smaller version of the decathlon or a heptathlon. For girls, it is 100 m high hurdles, long jump, shot put, high jump, and an 800 m run. The pentathlon is used because it is less stressful on the athletes than a full multi and because many high school meets only last one day, it allows the event to be contested in the time limit.


  1. ^ USATF - Statistics - Calculators - Combined Events Scoring
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Matthews, Peter (2012). "Pentathlon". Historical Dictionary of Track and Field. Scarecrow Press. pp. 164–5. ISBN 9780810867819. Retrieved 11 May 2016. 
  3. ^ "PLAINLY, JANE HAS A PENCHANT FOR THE PENTATHLON". Sports Illustrated. 21 November 1977. Retrieved 11 May 2016. 
  4. ^ "THE AGONY AND ECSTASY OF THE TRIALS". Sports Illustrated. 30 June 1980. Retrieved 11 May 2016. 
  5. ^ "Combined Events". usatfmasters.org. Retrieved 11 May 2016. 
  6. ^ a b "World Records". IAAF. Retrieved 11 May 2016. 
  7. ^ Nonna, Michael. "Women, Pentathlon > World Records Progression". Track and Field Statistics. Brinkster. Retrieved 11 May 2016. 
  8. ^ "Pentathlon - women - senior - indoor". All-time top lists. IAAF. Retrieved 11 May 2016. 
  9. ^ "60 Metres Hurdles Results" (PDF). IAAF. 9 March 2012. Retrieved 9 March 2012. 
  10. ^ "Pentathlon Results" (PDF). EA. 6 March 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2015. 

External links[edit]