Modern pentathlon is a sport patterned after the role of the military courier. A competitor runs, swims, rides a horse, fences and fires a pistol.

The actual competition includes fencing, 200m freestyle swimming, show jumping, and a final combined event of pistol shooting, and a 3200m cross-country run.

The event is held over one day. Competitors score points in the first three events, which decide their starting position for the final combined event, composed of the shooting and running disciplines. The first one over the line wins the gold medal.