Host City: Helsinki, Finland
Venue(s): Ahvenisto Administrative Building, Hämeenlinna; Ahvenisto Outdoor Swimming Pool, Hämeenlinna; Ahvenisto Ridge, Hämeenlinna
Date Started: July 21, 1952
Date Finished: July 25, 1952
Format: Point-for-place scoring.
With World Championships now having been conducted since 1949, there was at least some way to handicap the Olympic modern pentathlon event. Of the nine medals available at the Worlds in 1949-51, four had been won by Sweden, four by Finland, and one by Italy. The favorite in 1952 was Sweden’s Lars Hall, who had won the 1950 and 1951 World Championships. He was expected to be challenged by Finland’s Lauri Vilkko who had placed second in 1949 and 1951. Hall got off to a quick start, winning the cross-country steeplechase by 21 seconds over Finland’s Olavi Mannonen, while Vilkko lingered back in 11th place. Hall had drawn a horse that was found to be lame, and he was then re-assigned the best horse in the competition.
Hall placed seventh with the épée in the second phase, but fell behind Hungary’s István Szondy, who was third in riding, and fourth in fencing. Hall struggled in rapid-fire shooting, placing 15th. Szondy was only 12th with the pistol but remained tied for the lead with his teammate, Gábor Benedek, with Hall in third place, four points behind the Hungarian duo. Hall’s troubles in shooting were nothing to those of Vilkko, who placed only 38th and took himself out of medal contention. Hall was fortunate that he could shoot at all as he arrived late to the pistol range, but a Soviet protest had delayed the competition and kept him from being disqualified.
Lars Hall was easily the best swimmer in the competition and he won the 300 metre freestyle by over six seconds. This gave him a lead he would not relinquish. Placing eighth in the run, he won the gold medal by seven points over Benedek, with Szondy taking the bronze medal. Benedek and Szondy would finish 1-2 at the 1953 World Championships. Hall was a carpenter and became the first civilian to win the pentathlon. One interesting competitor was Australian Forbes Carlile, who later became the coach to Australian swimming superstar Shane Gould.
|4||Igor Novikov||22||Soviet Union||URS||55|
|6||Frederick Denman||23||United States||USA||62|
|8||Thad McArthur||23||United States||USA||68|
|10||Eduardo de Medeiros||29||Brazil||BRA||80|
|14||Guy Troy||29||United States||USA||95|
|15||Leon Lumsdaine||29||Great Britain||GBR||96|
|23||Pavel Rakityansky||Soviet Union||URS||123|
|28||Aleksandr Dekhayev||27||Soviet Union||URS||129|
|30||John Hewitt||27||Great Britain||GBR||136|
|37||Jervis Percy||23||Great Britain||GBR||161|
|40||Bertrand de Montaudoüin||28||France||FRA||176|
|50||Harry Schmidt||36||South Africa||RSA||226|