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July 23, 2008 9:52 AM   Subscribe

It's almost time again for everyone's favorite WTF Olympic Sport -- Modern Pentathlon. But as the Games approach, the sport is rocked by scandals -- faked scores, questionable competitions, international disputes. Meanwhile, the French MP team, not content to merely swimshootfenceriderun, add singing to their skill set with this catchy tune "T'as les jambes et t'as la tête".
posted by grounded (50 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
What? Who are you to call a sport dominated by swedes for nearly 50 years a "WTF sport"? If I could find a "would offend certain early 20:th century scandinavians" reason in the list, I'd flag this post.
posted by effbot at 10:05 AM on July 23, 2008


Well, this gives me a nice opportunity to link to the story in today's Detroit News about Sheila Taormina, who will become the first woman (and first American) to participate in three different Olympic sports (swimming, triathalon, and now modern pentathalon). She's overcome some interesting challenges along the way -- including financial issues, a stalker, and, most recently, depression. I've met Sheila and she's a really cool, down-to-earth person. I hope she does well, but she'll make history just by competing.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:06 AM on July 23, 2008


Say what you will, I still think the Pentathlon is the Olympic Sport of the badass, similar to the way that Iron Man Tri-athletes ares an order of awesomeness higher of your run-of-the-mill marathoner.

Sure, proving that you can dominate one sport better than anyone else alive on the planet at the moment is pretty awesome, but these guys say they can dominate 5 in one go better than anyone else.

Mark Phelps on a freaking horse? Yao Ming trying his hand at swordsplay? Pentathletes are the jack-of-all-trades at the Olympics and its one of my favorite events to watch.

The winter game's biathlon is still my favorite by far, however.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:07 AM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


*Modern Pentathlon
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:08 AM on July 23, 2008


I think it might be more appropriate to call it a Pythonesque Olympic Sport.
posted by tommasz at 10:08 AM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


We prefer to use the term "portmanteau sport".
posted by DU at 10:09 AM on July 23, 2008


Best Pentathalon Scandal Evah! Boris Onischenko and his magic sword
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:13 AM on July 23, 2008


Pentathlon IS the sport of the badass... as long as we're talking about the foot race, wrestling, the long jump, javelin throw and discus throw. Now how did air pistol, equestrianism, and fencing all get lumped together?
posted by tinkertown at 10:18 AM on July 23, 2008


Dammit. I should have said "sportmanteau".
posted by DU at 10:18 AM on July 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


tinkertown writes "Now how did air pistol, equestrianism, and fencing all get lumped together?"

"The modern pentathlon was invented by the Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games. As the events of the ancient pentathlon were modeled after the skills of the ideal soldier of that time, Coubertin created the contest to simulate the experience of a 19th century cavalry soldier behind enemy lines: he must ride an unfamiliar horse, fight with pistol and sword, swim, and run."
posted by Mitheral at 10:23 AM on July 23, 2008


> "T'as les jambes et t'as la tête"

La tête et les jambes is also the title of a cycling training manual by Henri Desgrange, founder of the Tour de France. To the best of my knowledge it was not set to music.
posted by ardgedee at 10:24 AM on July 23, 2008


Jack of all sports, master at none.
posted by three blind mice at 10:25 AM on July 23, 2008


So, pentathletes can outrun and out swim you, and they can stab, shoot or trample you.

If that's not bad ass, then nothing is.
posted by oddman at 10:29 AM on July 23, 2008


Which is weirder?

A competition in which you have to run, swim, ride a horse, shoot straight, and defend yourself with a sword.

or

A competition in you have to jump off a springboard over an obstacle; swing around and around on a bar (or two); do somersaults and cartwheels on a mat; and balance on a thin beam or twirl around on a thick one.
posted by googly at 10:29 AM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


....more appropriate to call it a Pythonesque Olympic Sport.

I thought you were going to link to this.
posted by Anderson_Localized at 10:29 AM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


> If that's not bad ass, then nothing is.

You know what would be more badass? Batman doing the pentathlon.
posted by ardgedee at 10:33 AM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Divine_Wino's Ultramodern Pentathlon:

1. Powerchug a bottle of warm Vanilla Vodka (1 liter) and then eat 1 box of low sodium Saltenes.
2. Get a bicycle through the NYC subway "mantrap" rotating exits (it's like a tiny revolving door built out of metal tubes).
3. Masturbate to orgasm while an old lady cries and throws handfuls of flower petals at you, Don Henley will sing an acapella medley of Eagles songs throughout.
4. Sneak up on a cop and steal his hat and successfully escape while wearing only a small hotel style bath towel and cheap flip-flops.
5. Air Pistol.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:40 AM on July 23, 2008 [22 favorites]


Did anyone notice that the assignments to horses are drawn randomly 20 minutes before the equestrian event? Crazy.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:44 AM on July 23, 2008


I had always wondered about the modern pentathlon events until I read the intro to the Wikipedia article that Mitheral just quoted. It makes a lot more sense when you think about it as a 19th century combat readiness test. I'd never thought about the traditional track & field pentathlon before, but it seems pretty arbitrary as well if you don't think of it as an ancient Greek combat readiness test.

Now, what would be really interesting would be combination events that test combat readiness (or are at least inspired by the idea) for other eras. For 20th century, the first things that come to mind are: rally racing, marksmanship, cross-country running, accuracy-landing skydiving, and maybe swimming. Anyone else have any suggestions?
posted by ErWenn at 10:47 AM on July 23, 2008


Did anyone notice that the assignments to horses are drawn randomly 20 minutes before the equestrian event? Crazy.

Yeah, since it's about your qualities as a rider, not the qualities of your horse.

They do the same in e.g. the individual show jumping finals in the world equstrian games (well, in that case all four riders that make it to the finals ride all horses).
posted by effbot at 10:57 AM on July 23, 2008


Jack of all sports, master at none.

Well, master of the modern pentathlon. If, say, an Olympic swimmer were to start picking on the pentathletes for being spread too thin, a pentathlete would probably run to his nearest horse and shoot him before starting the swim challenge. And then he'd start fencing, just to cement the awesome.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:59 AM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd just like to take a moment to put in a request that MetaFilter get a temporary separate forum for the duration of the Olympics, where any and all Olympics related threads can go. Same for the "Free Tibet Tho It's Too Late" threads and anything telling us how horrible China is. Cuz I for one am already tired of Beijing, and the Olympics haven't even effin' started yet.

Or do I have to make this request in MeTa?
posted by ZachsMind at 11:00 AM on July 23, 2008


So it's like American Gladiators?
posted by drezdn at 11:01 AM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


ZachsMind writes "I'd just like to take a moment to put in a request that MetaFilter get a temporary separate forum for the duration of the Olympics, where any and all Olympics related threads can go."

Good idea, we could wedge it in next to the American Election sub site.
posted by Mitheral at 11:11 AM on July 23, 2008


About 4 years ago, one of my colleagues threw a nostalgic toga party (we were all long out of college) at the house she shared with her boyfriend. I was nervous about going to a party with my out-of-shape upper arms exposed because I like to obsess over neurotic details rather than have actual fun. But I decided that the party was going to be full of English teachers (her job) and Army folks (his job), and that my physique would not fare that badly in comparison.

What I didn't realize was that the boyfriend wasn't just in the Army; he was a member of the World Class Athlete Program, and he and his friends were all pentathletes. Chad Senior, the guy who got to compete in Athens, was there, as were the rest of the bunch who had the misfortune to only be the 3rd or 5th best pentathletes in the country and so had to find some other Army assignment instead of Olympic training.

I borrowed a sweater.
posted by bibliowench at 11:13 AM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but without the giant cotton swabs.
posted by bjrn at 11:13 AM on July 23, 2008


Bah, that was a reply to drezdn's comment.
posted by bjrn at 11:14 AM on July 23, 2008


Are the Olympics happening? I thought they were still Touring The France.
posted by everichon at 11:15 AM on July 23, 2008


Masturbate to orgasm

Yeah, the favourite Olympic sport of everybody I know is, and always has been, Ladies Gymnastics.

I don't ever recall watching anything else.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:15 AM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I learned the military background of the Modern Pentathlon from Jon Sable, though he described it as specifically courier training. And he did medal in the event, I believe...
posted by Naberius at 11:54 AM on July 23, 2008


I'd just like to take a moment to put in a request that MetaFilter get a temporary separate forum

Build it.
posted by jessamyn at 12:02 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


The greatest Olympic sport, bar none, is curling. Curling is so excellent it should be included in the Summer Olympics just on principle.
posted by Justinian at 12:14 PM on July 23, 2008


"Convince people to go to SpoFi" surely, jessamyn.

And the modern pentathalon is just the coolest sport ever. The swashbuckler's olympics.
posted by rodgerd at 12:15 PM on July 23, 2008


Well, master of the modern pentathlon. If, say, an Olympic swimmer were to start picking on the pentathletes for being spread too thin, a pentathlete would probably run to his nearest horse and shoot him before starting the swim challenge. And then he'd start fencing, just to cement the awesome.

But he wouldn't look so awesome in the pool competing against a real swimmer. Nor would he look so awesome if that swimmer's partner was on the actual pistol team.
posted by three blind mice at 12:15 PM on July 23, 2008


ErWenn: Great list (esp. rally!), but replace either sky-diving or swimming with some form of MMA.
posted by LordSludge at 12:25 PM on July 23, 2008


If we updated it for the 21st century soldier, there'd only be one event -- Outsourcing to a Private Contractor.
posted by grounded at 12:38 PM on July 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Cuz I for one am already tired of Beijing, and the Olympics haven't even effin' started yet."

Dude, I'm already fed up with the 2010 games. Get with the program.
posted by Naberius at 12:50 PM on July 23, 2008


Mark Phelps on a freaking horse?

It is a little difficult to feel you have thought about this when you cannot correctly name the man who is arguably the best swimmer of all-freakin'-time. That said, it is interesting that apparently swimming is the hardest of the disciplines to take up: you can learn to run and ride and shoot and whatnot, but it takes having been a world-class swimmer first. Yay water people!
posted by dame at 1:00 PM on July 23, 2008


LordSludge: I thought about some sort of melee combat, but I figured that air drops and beach storming* were more common activities in 20th century warfare than actual hand-to-hand fighting. I could be wrong.

On a related note: are there any sporting events that reward stealth? There are a few events that I can think of that are essentially combat simulations (e.g. various paintball games), but not many that are more abstract than that. There's a tiny bit of stealth in baseball (stealing bases) and a lot of misdirection involved in other sports, but I'm hard pressed to think of many sports where the ability to not be seen (or noticed) is heavily utilized.

*Granted, it's very different from the standard swimming events, but I couldn't really think of any water-based events that involve carrying that much weight.
posted by ErWenn at 1:22 PM on July 23, 2008


apparently swimming is the hardest of the disciplines to take up

Riding is harder than swimming (the UK recruits MPs from Pony Club). And most modern pentathletes I've seen are woefully bad riders. (The horses are screened for suitability, they're packer-types.) It's kind of funny when you first start watching but then there's something really awful about watching decent horses having to put up with riders who yank on their mouths, lean on their shoulders and get them to spots where they can't safely jump the fence.
posted by grounded at 1:46 PM on July 23, 2008


Martin Short, Harry Shearer, and Christopher Guest, training for the WTF Olympics.
posted by not_on_display at 2:06 PM on July 23, 2008


What? Pythonesque mentioned twice and no one linked to the Silly Olympiad yet? FOR SHAME.

That I could only find it in German is even *more* Pythonesque.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:36 PM on July 23, 2008


Roy and HG caring for the battered sav
posted by goo at 3:39 PM on July 23, 2008


Or in English if you really don't want your experience to be *too* surreal.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:40 PM on July 23, 2008


Who are you to call a sport dominated by swedes for nearly 50 years a "WTF sport"?

It's also the national sport of Parmistan. Although they've recently added swinging around on conveniently placed parallel bars and pommel horses. So now it's more of a Gymkathalon.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:45 PM on July 23, 2008


On a related note: are there any sporting events that reward stealth?

Well, there have been ninja competing in the modern Olympics since the start but I'll be damned if I can see them.

They don't really care about the gold medals since they could steal them anytime they wanted to and it would be totally unnatural for a Ninja to take the podium and limelight, but I've been assured by reputable sources that they're there and that they win every single event.

Think about that the next time you're watching women's gymnastics, spankers. Think about that and ninja pine cone training.
posted by loquacious at 7:57 PM on July 23, 2008


>skills of the ideal soldier of that time


1. Fail high school.
2. Join street gang.
3. Deal drugs
4. Join US Army
5. Bomb wedding party.
posted by pompomtom at 9:36 PM on July 23, 2008


The events are epee fencing, pistol shooting, 200 m freestyle swimming, a show jumping course on horseback, and a 3 km cross-country run

It's damn close to the James Bond-thalon. Just replace the run with skiing... in August... somehow.
posted by rokusan at 9:54 PM on July 23, 2008


Ultra-modern Pentathlon:

1) rally racing (sweet choice)Colin McRae teaches the Scandinavian flick

2) marksmanship -how about freestyle shotgun? Benelli video

3) Ironman Triathlon 2.4mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26 mile run Julie Moss canonical clip

4) skydiving --accuracy is easy, here's what real skydiving contests look like.

5) MMA? Observed trials? MTB downhill?

Just some ideas. A modern behind-the-lines military person would tend to have more computer and social skills, but those aren't sexy.
posted by lothar at 10:17 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Don't forget the parkour, lothar.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:40 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


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