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MODERN PENTATHLON: Movie star relishes unpaid job

from The Nando Times, July 23, 1996

ATLANTA (Jul 23, 1996 - 16:35 EST) - Action movie star Dolph Lundgren, the Soviet bad-guy boxing machine in Rocky IV, is relishing the challenge of his unpaid job at the Olympics.

"It's a real contrast to Hollywood for me," he said of his role as manager to the United States modern pentathlon team, bringing his lesser known qualities to one of the Olympics' cinderella sports.

Modern pentathlon was invented by Olympics founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin as an event aimed at finding the consummate all-round sportsman.

He based it on a combination of the skills a 19th century military courier might need to get through enemy lines: riding an unfamiliar horse, shooting, fencing, swimming and running.

Lundgren's duties are admittedly more mundane, although no one is saying that his towering physique and combat skills might not be useful in ensuring the athletes eat properly and get to bed on time.

It was Hollywood that created the link, however, when several members of the team advised or played bit parts in a film Lundgren was starring in called "Pentathlon."

Lundgren, former captain of the national karate team in his native Sweden, became fascinated by what he calls "a real Olympic sport, a purely amateur event."

The sport, once practiced above all by soldiers and now struggling against Olympic extinction, is certainly not saying 'no' to a bit of Hollywood glamour.

The extensive and expensive training facilities required for modern pentathlon make it the least participated in of all the Olympic sports.

Its position at the Games has come under threat from the more popular triathlon.

In an attempt to attract more spectators and avoid being excluded the sport has changed its format at these Olympics so that all the events will be held on one day rather than four.

Even Lundgren's Rocky IV character might flinch at the prospect of swimming 300 meters against the clock, fencing against 31 opponents in turn, firing 20 rounds at a target 10 meters away and riding an unfamiliar horse over 12 fences.

After more than 11 hours of exertion, points are converted into time penalties so that the first to cross the line in the 4,000 meters cross-country run will win gold.

"We'd like to get across the message that these are truly the best athletes in the world," said U.S. modern pentathlon president Robert Marbut.

"Modern pentathlon is about five completely different skills. The decathlon gets a lot more attention but that's just running, jumping and throwing."

And if his words are not enough to boost the profile of the sport, Lundgren is not above using another skill.

"Sure, sex appeal -- whatever makes it work," he said.