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Final preparations under way for pentathlon world finals on the Suncoast

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Suncoast won out over large cities around the world competing for the chance to host the Modern Pentathlon World Cup Finals next week. It hasn't been held in the U.S. in 40 years, but next week the finals will be held on the Suncoast.

The winners go to the Olympics.

The Modern Pentathlon is actually the acting out a of a story. "It is based on a 19th century French soldier who finds himself behind enemy lines. He has to get a message to his general, so he has to fight with a sword, swim across a river, jump on an unfamiliar horse, and clear 12 major obstacles, and then run and shoot at the same time," says Katherine Harris, chair of the Sarasota Bradenton organizing committee.

The first ancient pentathlon was around 708 BC. “It was originally created when the Spartans objected to the Greeks having only one competition per person, because the Spartans were the overall champions and best warriors. So the pentathlon was created for them."

The Modern Pentathion became a part of the Olympics in 1912.

In the World Cup Final on the Suncoast, 36 females and 36 males from 22 nations are competing. "They'll be competing in sword fencing, swimming freestyle, equestrian over the jump, 12 obstacles, as well as running and shooting, and the shooting is a laser pistol."

There are more than 400 Suncoast volunteers working on the event, including schools and colleges. "We have elementary school children who have been writing welcome letters to the athletes, they will be in their welcome packages; we have the chefs from the USF Culinary School," says volunteer chair Karin Weichlein.

Chairing the swimming events is a 3-time Olympian. "I'm a Latvian Olympian. I swam in Atlanta in 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004," says Agnese Butler.

Competition starts June 6. Women compete Friday, men Saturday. Mixed relays are Sunday.

"The morning starts with fencing, and the first piece of fencing will be at the YMCA water park; the swimming will be at the Selby pool at the YMCA; and then there's a second piece of fencing that will be held outside in the heat on the Polo Grounds."

The equestrian and shooting events are also at the polo grounds.

So not only does the pentathlon give Suncoast residents a chance to watch some of the best athletes in the world compete at the peak of their game, it also brings a lot of visitors to the Suncoast and is a real boost to the economy.