Lundgren may be the pentathlon's last best hope
by Luke Cyphers, Chicago Tribune, May 16, 1996
Woody Harrelson wants to save the trees. Jane Fonda wanted to save the Viet Cong. Any number of Hollywood types have tried to save the whales. Now, it may be up to action hero Dolph Lundgren to save the modern pentathlon. "I wouldn't go that far," said Lundgren, who will go to Atlanta as the team leader--an official position that's sort of a cross between a manager and an assistant coach--for the U.S. Olympic Modern Pentathlon team this summer. "I'll do what I can. The thing that would help most would be a medal."
You may remember Lundgren, who lives most of the year in New York, from several lower-level adventure flicks, including "Masters of the Universe," "The Punisher," and most recently, "Johnny Mnemonic." More likely, you remember him as Ivan Drago, the robotic Russian who kills Apollo Creed, then gets his comeuppance in "Rocky IV."
You may not remember the modern pentathlon, which is why the sport is in a fix. Originated by the founder of the modern Olympic Games, Baron de Coubertin, the sport requires competitors to perform five skills a soldier
might need to deliver a message: riding a horse, fencing, pistol-shooting, swimming and distance running.
If that seems like an excuse for a bunch of rich fops to get some outdoor exercise, remember that in 1912 a 26-year-old army lieutenant named George S. Patton finished fifth in the Stockholm Games. (His poor shooting cost him a medal.)
Despite such rich history, the International Olympic Committee thinks time may have rendered the sport as dead as Patton. The sport's governing body has been in dire financial straits, and in recent years it took money from accused millionaire murderer John du Pont, better known for his support of olympic wrestling. After Atlanta, the IOC is considering canceling the Pentathlon because of lack of interest. Enter He-Man. Through his mere presence, Lundgren is giving the sport a needed dose of publicity. But why, and how?
Two years ago, Lundgren produced and starred in a movie, "Pentathlon." He met and trained for the role with U.S. pentathletes Rob Stull and Mike Gostigian, and the men became close friends. A former karate champ in his native Sweden, Lundgren fell in love with the sport. He slowly became more involved with the sport's governing body and was asked if he'd like to help. The team leader spot was open. It's not a glamorous job. Lundgren's duties will include insuring the athletes make it to each of the five venues on time, coordinating
drug-testing and general trouble-shooting. "It's a lot of logistics, a lot of responsibility for little details," he
said. He thinks he's capable. He holds a master's degree in chemical engineering and earned a Fulbright Scholarship. And if his brain can't handle a problem, like, say, enforcing curfew, his third-degree black belt can. "If it comes down to twisting a few arms, I can do that, but I'd rather not have to," he said with a laugh.