The modern pentathlon has always been a strange duck among Olympic sports, a mixture of competitions – fencing, swimming, equestrianism, pistol shooting and long-distance running – which, to modern eyes, apparently have little to do with the with each other. And for years, the sport’s governing body has had to justify its existence to Olympic decision-makers, whether by shortening the competition or changing the format to appeal to an audience beyond the confused onlookers who stumble upon it every four years. .
Tuesday, the governing body of modern pentathlon UIPM announcement a change that will go beyond simple DIY. He will abandon the equestrian part entirely and replace it with what he calls an “obstacle discipline”, in which two to four athletes will compete on a course of 100 meters while overcoming many obstacles: steps, swings, walls , rings, wheels, balance beams, ladders, monkey bars and a curved “tsunami” wall at the finish.
The changes, described by the UIPM in its press release as “appetizing”, aim to “reduce the cost and complexity of modern pentathlon at the Olympic Games“. Obstacle course was chosen to replace horseback riding due to its popularity with all age groups, accessibility to all athletes, and simplicity of infrastructure.
The obstacle course will first be tested next month at an event in Turkey, after which the UIPM Congress will vote to make the change permanent. However, the old format which features horses will still be used at least once, at the Paris Olympics in 2024, as the schedule for those Games is already set in stone. If all goes according to plan, the new modern pentathlon will have its Olympic premiere at the Games in Los Angeles in 2028, although it is not on the provisional program for now.
Change has been in the works for months, especially after the 2021 Tokyo Olympics when German modern pentathlon coach Kim Raisner slapped a rider’s horse after the horse refused to jump a fence , sparking outrage around the world. But not everyone is happy that the equestrian part of the event is about to be dropped, namely those who specialize in show jumping.
“Instead of looking at itself and its own management of the sport, the UIPM lazily singled out equestrianism. They say the root of their problems are horses preventing participation, but that ignores the inconvenient truth that the broader equestrian sports of dressage, eventing and show jumping remain safe at the Olympics,” said Kate Allenby, a British modern pentathlete who won bronze at the 2000 Sydney Games, wrote earlier this month at Inside the Games. “The UIPM’s decision to abandon show jumping not only fundamentally changes the sport, it destroys it. It puts an end to the sport which [IOC founder Pierre de Coubertin] believed would produce the “complete athlete”. It will no longer be modern pentathlon, it will be a new sport.
United Pentathlon, a group that wants to keep the equestrian part of the sport, says the UIPM failed to consult with athletes when deciding on a change. In an April survey of 310 modern pentathletes, 54% of whom are current athletes, Pentathlon United mentioned over 95% are unhappy with the way the UIPM has driven change and over 93% are unhappy with the direction of the sport. More than 77% of athletes surveyed said they were unlikely to stay in the sport if the equestrian part was dropped.
“We’re not just a selection sport where you just pick the five most practical sports and throw them all together,” said 2020 Olympic gold medalist Joe Choong of Great Britain. mentioned earlier this month. “We are a legitimate Olympic sport and we have a very proud history. I think it’s quite insulting to throw that out so easily.