Modern Pentathlon is exciting because anyone can win – Pier Paolo Petroni

The Modern Pentathlon is an event like no other.

While most athletes focus years of training into a single sport, this event requires the versatility to cope with the demands of five very different disciplines.

Pier Paolo Petroni represented Italy at the Rio Olympic Games and the 30-year-old believes that the variety of sports in the event is what makes it so special.

“There are many different variables in the Modern Pentathlon compared to a single event like swimming where you already know what your time will be,” he said.

“Fencing is always unpredictable, and the horses (allocated to the athletes) are drawn at random from the organisation and it is not easy. It is exciting because it means that anyone can win.”

The event has undergone major changes since its inception in the Olympic programme back in 1912 and bears little similarity to the original pentathlon of the ancient Olympic Games. 

It now comprises five disciplines; fencing, 200m freestyle swimming, show jumping, and a combined event of pistol shooting and a 3200m cross-country run.

While every sport requires a huge amount of dedication to reach the top, the Modern Pentathlon remains an event for the ultimate all-rounder and knowing how to train for it can be difficult.

For Petroni, his Olympic journey started in 2015, with what he described as a “long, tough season” which determined the 36 athletes that would compete at South America’s first ever Games. 

“When training for Rio, my day was very busy. It was every day of the year, starting at 8.30am and not finishing until around 8pm.

“I put all my energy into that competition, I trained well and was so ready for Rio, but Modern Pentathlon is a sport that doesn’t always reward you.”

The Italian came third in the overall qualifying rankings, staking his claim as a real medal contender, but was aware nothing could be taken for granted in a sport that is unlike any other.

The Games were ultimately disappointing for him as he finished 24th in the overall rankings.

“Everything was so big there. I didn’t manage the fencing very well and after that it was very tough. I knew I didn’t have a chance to get a medal so I tried to live it and enjoy everything there and the whole Olympic experience. It was amazing and I’m very proud of myself and what I achieved in competing.”

After his summer in the spotlight, Petroni had some time off to rest and recover, spending two months in Brazil before heading to the United States at the end of last year.

Now back home, he has a clear vision for what he wants to achieve in the future.

“There are many doors that are opening for me, my family has a business so I’ll continue working on that. I’d also like to make my sport more popular in Italy, so maybe I can help the national federation with that.”

Petroni is a big believer in hard work and dedication, but had a word of warning for youngsters looking to pursue sporting dreams.

“I would say to young athletes of all sports to take it easy, dream big, but have something else beside you to keep your mind clear.

“If you become too involved in a sport then you may rely on it too much.”