- 13 Aug 1948
- London 1948
Captain William Grut - Modern Pentathlon
The Modern Pentathlon is one of the most gruelling events in the Games, requiring versatility, stamina and a little bit of luck. Rarely does one person dominate from the start, but then again, rarely does someone like Captain William Grut crop up. Although his sport was little known at the time, Grut was to emerge as one of the outstanding athletes of the 1948 Games.
Grut was a 33-year-old Swedish artillery officer and he produced the most decisive victory in the sport's history. He won three of the five events outright, and came fifth and eighth in the other two, promptly retiring from competition after competing his second Olympic Games of the year.
Yes, you read that correctly. Only six months previously, Grut had competed in the Olympic Winter Games, taking part in a demonstration event called the Winter Pentathlon, which consisted of Downhill Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Fencing, Shooting and Riding. He considered it little more than a warm-up for the Summer Games, but still came second, winning a silver medal.
Grut's background was as complicated as his sporting career. His father had been a national tennis champion and architect, who had helped to design the stadium in which the 1912 Olympic Games were staged in Stockholm. Grut was a natural swimmer who set a national junior record for the 100m Freestyle.
He had wanted to be a doctor, but joined the Army when the family's fortune was lost in a stock-market crash. As a captain in the Swedish Artillery, he had plenty of opportunities to learn the skills demanded by Modern Pentathlon. He ran, rode and swam every day, fenced three times a week and shot in his lunch-break.
Having retired from competition, Grut managed the Swedish Modern Pentathlon team at the 1952 and 1956 Olympic Games. On both occasions, Lars Hall, coached by Grut, won gold. In 1960, Grut was elected General Secretary of the International Modern Pentathlon and Biathlon Union, a position he held for 24 years.