High-tech laser guns will zap targets in Olympic pentathlon event

Modern pentathlon event in London Olympic Games will feature laser guns, electronic targets

Laser guns and electronic targets for the first time will replace traditional air guns in the modern pentathlon event at the 2012 London Olympics. 

The modern pentathlon consists of five events: pistol shooting, fencing, 200 m freestyle swimming, show jumping, and a 3 km cross-country run and has been part of the Olympic Games since 1912.    (Cool fact: George Patton, who later became General of the US Army, competed in the first Olympic Modern Pentathlon at the Stockholm 1912 Games, according to the London Olympics web site).

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There are a number of benefits to the new high-tech systems according to Pentathlon's governing body, Union International de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM):

  • Each athlete has a dedicated computer next to them so they can see exactly where each shot goes. This also allows athletes to zero their pistols according to their screens information of their shot location.
  • Athletes get a lot more information feedback. They can know their average shot score as well as how many seconds it takes for each shot.
  • Statistics are produced live.
  • Athletes feel safer that all their shots are being captured by the targets as they get real time feedback.
  • Targets are much more flexible as you can easily change the software to change the hit zone, which is useful for training.
  • New innovate training software has been developed to train in a precise way that has never been possible before as coaches can adapt specific trainings based on the data received.
  • Ability to show where each athletes shot goes on TV, stadium big screen and Olympics website.

Also, with the new laser technology which will be provided by a company known as Simpower the shooting discipline now works without any pellets or lead bullets. In the past the firearms polluted the air with gas and heavy metals in the gunpowder in guns used in the past, according to UIPM's web site petathalon.org.  The laser is Class 1 which means that a person can look into the beam for 8 hours without damage for the eyes. The typical shot duration right now is: 40 milliseconds.  The technology will also reduce the cost of the shooting element of the five-event sport by two thirds, the organization says.

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The guns have been tested in a number of events including the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore.

Still the decision to use the lasers has also generated a good bit of controversy.  An interesting argument is found here.

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