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50th WCH: History of Men Modern Pentathlon World Championships

2010-08-13 14:32:00 UIPM

12 August 2010 - The 2010 UIPM Modern Pentathlon World Championships in Chengdu, China on 1-7 September 2010 will mark the 50th edition of the world’s biggest Modern Pentathlon Championships.

The first ever Modern Pentathlon World Championships were held in Stockholm, Sweden back in 1949. This event only attracted 21 participants from 7 nations and was a relatively low key event as the new competition was not accepted over night by the Pentathlon community. Bjurefelt from Sweden won the event to have the honour of being called the first ever Modern Pentathlon World Champion.

The event struggled to grow in popularity for the first few years, as the second edition of the championships in Bern, Switzerland only attracting 19 competitors and Helsingborg, Sweden only having 27 the following year. It was not until the 1955 Championships in Macolin, Switzerland where the event sprung to life. 48 competitors from 14 countries took part in this edition and a healthy crowd turned up to see Konstantin Salnikov (URS) take the Gold.

This number of participants stayed stagnant until 1967 where for the 4th time a World Championship was hosted by Sweden, this time in Jönköping. This attracted a record 60 Pentathletes which portrayed the gaining prestige that a World Championship Gold Medal held. This Championship saw the great Hungarian Andràs Balczòcapture his 4th Gold medal (Balczòended up winning a remarkable 5 individual Gold Medals and 22 World Championship medals overall). Every decade had his own dominant athlete: in the fifties the star was Igor Novikov, an incredibly strong pentathlete from Russia who won four titles in a row from 1957 till 1961; in the sixties came the Balczo's Era followed by another big star of the past, the Russian Pavel Lednev who dominated the seventies by winning four titles in six years (1973-74-75-78). In 1976, like always in the Olympic year until 2000, the World Championships were not organised, Lednev was second individual, same position like in 1976 Montreal Olympics.

The 1979 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary attracted a new international breed of Pentathletes with Ireland, China and New Zealand all making up the numbers of a 67 strong field. These international athletes brought the crowd through the gates in their masses as Pentathlon was booming in Hungary. They all got to see a stirring performance of Robert Nieman to take Gold.

During the 80’s and 90’s the Modern Pentathlon continued to grow and evolve. In the early eighties, another Russian left his sign in the international scenario of modern pentathlon: Anatoly Starostin won the title in 1983 after winning the 1980 Olympic Games of Moscow when he was still junior. As well as Starostin, other great pentathletes of the eighties were Janus Peciak (POL) who won the title in 1981 and Daniele Masala (ITA) who became World Champion in the following year after a bronze in 1979 and a silver in 1981. Both Peciak and Masala won the Olympic individual gold respectively in 1976 and 1984. In those years the cake of victories was also shared with Hungarian Attila Miszer who was first in Melbourne 1985 and with the Italian Carlo Massullo who was Champion in 1986 ahead of Masala who finished second. Joel Bouzou of France and the Laszlo Fabian from Hungary won the last two titles of the eighties by triumphing respectively in 1987 and 1989. The first pentathlon world champion of the nineties was Gianluca Tiberti (ITA) who won the gold in Lahti, Finland in 1990, followed by 1991 World Champion, Arkadius Skrzypazek of Poland. After becominc world chmpion, Skrzypasek won Barcelona 1992 Olympics. The German city of Darmstad hosted the World Cahmpionships in 1993 and this edition introduced a big change in the competition format: as well as being the last world championship with the fire shooting, the 1993 edition was the first World Championship which adopted the “one day” competition format. The champion that year was Richard Phelps of Great Britain.

The following world championship, the one hosted by Sheffield (GBR), was an innovative one: first time with the semi-finals system and first in the history of modern pentathlon with the 10 metres air pistol shooting on standing targets instead of the previous 25 metres fire shooting on moving targets. The winner of individual gold was another strong Russian who was destined to become the ruler of those years: Dmitri Svatkovsky. Svatkovsky doubled his 1994 title by winning the gold also at 1995 Basel (SUI) World Championships and finished second in 1997 at Sofia World Championships. In Bulgaria the gold medal went to French Sebastian Deleigne who reigned for two years in a row by confirming himself champion at Mexico 1998 World Championships. The Hungarian Gabor Balogh won the last title of the nineties in his hometown Budapest and wrote the first big result of his brilliant carrier. Balogh was second at Sydney 2000 Olympics and again world champion in Millfield 2001.

After exactly ten years since 1989 World Championships, Budapest hosted again this competition which as 1989’s was a fantastic event, which attracted thousands of Hungarian fans cheering and supporting their domestic champions. In 1999 all the five events were held for the first time within a walking distance area in the beautiful Margit Island along the Duna River. At least 20.000 spectators attended the event giving the competition the typical look of major sports. Also the participation of media and sponsors was consistent with a massive coverage both by the press and the TVs. Even if it was 10 years earlier, and the political and economic situation of Hungary was long different from 1999’s, also the Edition of 1989 was a great success from the point of view of spectators’ participation, with rivers of people cheering as crazy and crowding all the competition areas.

In 2000 the Modern Pentathlon World Championships were held for the first time during the Olympic year. Italy organised that edition and Pesaro was the selected city. The winner of the individual gold medal was Andrejus Zadneprovskis of Lithuania who won the first of his two world titles, followed by his second one in Moscow 2004 world championships. In 2002 the Californian city of San Francisco hosted the 42nd edition of pentathlon world championships; Michal Sedlecky was the first Czech pentathlete ever and unique till now to win the individual gold medal at the worlds. The same thing happened to Eric Walther who became the first German to be crowned as world champion in pentathlon at 2003 world championships in Pesaro (Italy). Another historical step for our sport took place in 2005 when Warsaw (POL) organised the major competition of the year. In fact for the first time ever, the world title went to an Asian pentathlete, the Chinese Qian Zhenhua even if the year before, Korean pentathlete Lee Choon Huan almost made it by finishing second at Moscow World Championships.

In 2006 the world of pentathlon moved to Guatemala City for the 46th edition of Pentathlon World Championships. The gold medal went to Lithuanian Edvinas Krungolcas who finished ahead of Viktor Horvath from Hungary and his team-mate Andrejus Zadneprovskis who won the bronze.

Adam Marosi 2009 Champion

Horvath had the opportunity to stand on the top of the podium in the following year when he won the individual gold in Berlin 2007 in front of the one who will be the 2008 World Champion, the Russian Ilia Frolov.

Frolov got the World title in the Olympic year 2008 at Budapest World Championships before passing it to Hungarian Adam Marosi who is the current world champion thanks to his first place at the London 2009 World Championships, the first ones of the “combined event era”. Marosi won also the 2009 World Cup Final and kept dominating the international scene also in 2010 by taking the Gold at the World Cup Final and finishing first at Medway World Cup #3. For this reason the Hungarian pentathlete is the favourite for Chengdu 2010.

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