Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey

Regardless of the fuss over quarantine laws, the question as to the equestrian section of the pentathlon event ass never an issue.

Given this involved competitors for a just a few hours, the normal procedure established over the years was that local horses were trained and allocated to contestants around a week before the event to allow a bonding for the one day cross-country ride.

The riding section of the Melbourne pentathlon was the first of the five legs – in fact, the second event of the Games  to commence – they started at 9.00 a.m. at the Oaklands Hunt Club north-west of Melbourne, just 30 minutes after the Foils Team Fencing as St. Kilda Town Hall.

Prior to the event, a training centre  was set up at Attwood, the Police Training Depot near Broadmeadows, about 10 miles from the Village, and where competitors had the opportunity to ride daily over country very similar to the competition course at Oaklands just two miles away; the O.O.C. purchased around 100 horses for schooling and training, of these just on 80 were considered of suitable standard for allocation when competitors arrived.

Fifty-four entries (including ten reserves) were received from eighteen countries — thirteen teams and five individuals, but following withdrawals, twelve teams and four individual competitors, a total of forty actually participated. As a result of injuries in the riding, four competitors were forced to withdraw and the remaining thirty-six (including eight teams) completed the competition.

Scoring

The 1956 Games in Melbourne were the first where points were awarded for individual performances in the pentathlon events - previously competitors had been rated according to their placings in each event.

For the riding event. the course was 5,000 metres with around 30 obstacles, mostly man-made. Since the horses had been proved equal to the difficult terrain, a pace of 500 metres per minute was set as the standard, the total time thus fixed at 10 minutes and 1,000 points, with an addition or deduction of two-and-one-half points for each second under or over such time. Six competitors finished in less than 10 minutes, thirteen negotiated the course without any obstacle faults and seven others had but a single fault. The fastest time was posted by an American rider, 9 minutes and 32 seconds. earning him 1,070 points.

Modern Pentathlon : Cross-country Run

Oaklands was used for the Modern Pentathlon for the 4,000-metre cross-country run on day 6 on a track laid just inside the equestrian circuit.

A similar system of scoring was used - the standard time was set at 15 minutes, for which 1,000 points were given, and for every second better or worse than that time three points were added or subtracted. All 36 that survived the first day’s ride competed, 19 bettered the standard time.

Oaklands Junction remains the leading centre in Melbourne for hunt club meetings and is also the location of Victoria’s leading thoroughbred sales complex.

Playgrounds : Oaklands Hunt Club

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No place for the faint-hearted - Man or Beast!

 Pentathlon competitors at Oaklands handle one of several stone fences (above) and emerge from a creek bed crossing up a steep incline(below)

The 1952 Helsinki winner, L. G. Hall splashes through a creek at Oaklands on his way to a second Gold Medal. His effort gave Sweden the remarkable record of eight Gold from the nine Olympics since 1912 when the Pentathlon was introduced.