Thursday, August 14, 2008

Olympic Memories

My children’s father was a silver medalist in the 1964 Olympics in Japan, before they were born, but they grew up watching the games with their Dad with excitement and wonder.

He was in the Air Force and a member of the Modern Pentathlon Team. It’s not a very well known sport in the United States, but has been very popular in Europe for many years. Pentathlon is a composite athletic event, encompassing target shooting, fencing, swimming, equestrian Show Jumping and cross-country running. Pentathlon games are an optimum blend of an athlete’s strength, skill, timing, endurance and determination. Each contestant must participate in all five sporting events, one after the other in order to win the pentathlon.

Originally an Ancient Greek Pentathlon, a primitive version of the modern day pentathlon was introduced during 708 BC for the soldier athlete. The sport comprised five games - Discus, Javelin, long jump, foot race and wrestling. Discus, Javelin and Long jump were categorized solely as pentathlon events and were generally not played as individual sports. These games were a test of a participant’s strength and timing.

The epithet modern is important to discern it from the ancient athletics – none of the events of modern pentathlon were part of the ancient Olympics. 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. The event was first contested at the 1912 Olympic Games, and was won by Swedish athlete Gösta Lilliehöök.

Modern pentathlon originated from the military and was a test of the officers’ courage, co-ordination, physical fitness, self-discipline and flexibility. The pentathlon games initially lasted for five days with one event contested each day. In 1984, it was made a four-day event, with both pistol shooting and cross-country run conducted on the fourth and final day. Since 1996, the pentathlon is held as a single day event with all five events contested one after another.

Their Dad’s achievements have always been source of great pride for all four of them and they each have their share of pictures and souvenirs of his days as a member of the Pentathlon Team. So it is fun for all of us to look back over the years and enjoy our own family memories of the Olympics.


Rain said...

that was interesting and something about which I knew nothing. His children have every right to be proud as it sounds like an all around event.

It's a little disillusioning with the modern Olympics and the fraud, the trying to get drugs without being caught and now the little Chinese girl that is underage but the government helped create a lie to get her in. Not much honor in that but then it's all about winning and the concept of honor and physical excellence is secondary or so it appears. I don't think it's been that way from the past and a shame it is now. I know it's about national pride but seeing anybody do something really well is a joy to all-- or so it seems to me.

Judy said...

How exciting. I am sure they were very proud of their father and his accomplishments. Great post. Have a good weekend.

joared said...

The goal of the Olypics to bring the nations of the world together is laudable while also reflecting the imperfections of mankind. We must keep pursuing the ideal. Wonderful that your family can proudly feel such an intimate part of the event.

Interesting how the event has come to be and evolved over the years. Thanks for sharing this.

TropiGal said...

How exciting to have had an Olympian in the family! How exciting for the children, too. It's a wonderful story, a wonderful memory. I enjoyed reading it.