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Athletics coach takes on pentathlon in effort to promote sport in the Cook Is

Wednesday 25 October 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Athletics, Sports


Athletics coach takes on pentathlon in effort to promote sport in the Cook Is
Ruth Mave takes on fencing. 23101030

Cook Islands News columnist Ruth Mave is keen to bring modern pentathlon to the nation and has set about competing in the sport to get a first-hand taste of what it’s like.

New Zealand Modern Pentathlon held a festival competition recently and the Cook Islands were invited to compete.

“For various reasons I was unable to secure an athlete to send due to school holidays, mock exams and other sporting commitments so it was suggested that I compete to learn more about the sport,” Mave said.

Mave said the festival was focused on developing grassroots for elite and para athletes.

Mave flew to Auckland, and on to Hamilton where she had a one-hour lesson in how to hold the foil and stand in on guard position, and some various lunges for parrying. 

Later that day she had another lesson on one to one etiquette, and for the first time was wired up and experienced what it felt like to be stabbed by a pointy stick.

The day started with a pool swim of 50m then on to three hours of fencing where Mave had to face 30 opponents, three of whom were blind, and she had to be blindfolded.

Then in cold blustery conditions, she ran 600m twice, shooting at a target two times.

Having not been in a formal swimming event for 24 years or run in a competition for 14 years, Mave decided to enter into the spirit of the competition as an opportunity to learn.

At the end of the day she took gold in her age group and third in the female individual fencing points overall while being the oldest competitor.

Now Mave is keen to bring the sport here.

Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne is the modern pentathlon, an Olympic sport whose vision and inclusion was by the original father of the modern day Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin in 1912.

It is based on a day in the life of a Greek soldier who would jump on his horse to ride into battle, stop to swim across a river where upon meeting the enemy take to fighting them off with a sword, and if necessary run after them and shoot them.

There were the five disciplines, horse riding, swimming, fencing, running and shooting.

Coubertin believed it would be this event above all others that tested a man’s moral qualities as much as his physical resources and skills, thereby producing the ideal complete athlete.

The new sport was enthusiastically adopted with its inherent demands of courage, co-ordination, physical fitness, self-discipline and flexibility, in ever changing circumstances. 

A young American lieutenant later to be the famous WW1 General George S Patton came fifth in the first ever Olympic modern pentathlon.

The sport has evolved, the horse riding will be removed after the Paris Olympics 2024 and replaced with an obstacle course similar to an army recruitment theme, requiring lots of arm swinging through rings, up and over fences, and a wall climb. 

Andrew Collings as secretary general for Modern Pentathlon New Zealand, and his wife Kaewrutai who is the President of MPNZ and the vice president of Oceania MP have been keen to establish the sport in the Cook Islands and approached athletics coach Mave for interest. 

Mave saw an opportunity to attract young and old back to the track, to run or walk, if there was a fun side and interest in shooting a laser gun in between.

It is like a real life version of the online game Assassin Creed.

In 2022, the Collings couple came to the Cook Islands to introduce the sport with three open days to try the shooting and learn some basic fencing moves.

The laser gun is police and customs approved.

It is a one flash laser, so is safer than those used by a lecturer to circle information on a slide, because it is not a continuous beam.

The laser target is placed 3 metres, 5m and 10m away, and when the laser hits the target board red lights flash, when the central black circle target is hit, a green light illuminates. 

There are five green lights that need to be reached in order for the runner to move on.

If no lights are hit, the target will time out at a set time e.g. 50secs then the athlete can carry on running.

The shorter the time spent reaching the five green lights, the less time is added to the run time.  

Shooting is done when the athlete is tired from running so holding the gun steady takes some skill and fitness to accomplish.

The sport is flexible and multilevel in how many ways it can be set up as a competition.

There are laser run competitions, only of various run lengths, from where you run, 600m shoot and repeat this three times, to longer distances and numbers of repetitions depending on age groups.

Then there is the biathlon of swim and run, triathlon of swim run and shoot, or tethalon of swim run shoot and fence.

Currently in Oceania, Australia New Zealand and the Cook Islands are registered.

Mave is keen to have a competition in the Cooks early next year, “to bring the laser run in as a fun way to include running walking and essential movement to the community”.

She will also look at adding the swim discipline and possibly setting up a mock obstacle course for fun to introduce people of all ages to the sport.

With a degree in physcial education and a keen interest in Inclusive education Mave said she is wanting to encourage all abilities to give it a go.

Mave is heading to a world competition in Bali next week.

An open day and competition will be held on Rarotonga next Februray and anyone interested can contact Mave for further details at