A young French cavalry officer of the 19th century was sent on horseback to deliver a message. He rode across the uneven terrain, through enemy lines, and was confronted by a soldier with his sword drawn. Challenged to a duel, the officer won, only to have his horse shot out from under him by another enemy soldier.
After felling that soldier with a single shot, the officer ran on. He swam across a raging river, and then finally he delivered the message. So, legend has it, was born the modern pentathlon.
The brainchild of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, the event was based upon the unlucky officer and introduced into the Stockholm Games of 1912. Only remotely resembling the ancient pentathlon inspired by the warmongering Spartans, modern pentathletes shoot, fence, swim, compete in show jumping and run - five events testing endurance as well as athletic versatility.