Since this fateful ride at the 2021 Summer Games in Tokyo, the modern pentathlon has had to worry about its Olympic future. At that time, Annika Schleu from Berlin ran away with the horse Saint Boy. In front of the cameras, national coach Kim Raisner shouted at her that Schleu should “put it right”. Raisner punched the horse in the side, the desperate sling kept using the crop. With consequences. The two were denounced worldwide for animal cruelty.
The action caused a landslide: The world association UIPM took riding out of the pentathlon – but only after the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. However, the search for a replacement is already underway. Currently the most promising candidate is an obstacle course in the style of the television show “Ninja Warrior”.
A first test will take place in Ankara (Turkey) on June 27th and 28th following the World Cup finals. The association explains to WELT what the athletes can expect: “We offer the athletes, coaches and observers the first opportunity to try out the new discipline.” UIPM expects around 100 participants – pentathlonists, but also obstacle specialists who may want to retrain.
The evening before the competition, a briefing will be held at the Green Park Hotel. There the participants learn more about the design of the obstacle course and the rules.
Then, on June 27th, the Ankara Equestrian Club will teach the athletes how to overcome the obstacles. “The world’s leading obstacle sport experts take over,” explains the world association. This is followed by a free practice session in the afternoon. The official test event then takes place on the following day: in the morning are the qualifications, in the afternoon the finals.
The course should look like this: The basis is a running track of up to 100 meters in length – with up to four lanes. A maximum of ten obstacles are built on it. The athletes have to run, climb, crawl, slide, swing over objects. At the finish you have to activate a button to stop the time.
The obstacles include: stairs, rope swings, 1.5 meter high wall, a climbing frame, staggered steps, a 50 centimeter flat crawling track, rings, hand cranks, balancing beams, ladders and hurdles to jump over or under which you can crawl. At the finish there is a “tsunami”-shaped wall resembling a half pipe. You have to go up to this at the end.
If you don’t get through an obstacle the first time, you have to try a second time. If you fail again, you have to continue with the next obstacle. Gloves are allowed, rubbing hands with magnesia is not. Although the athletes know the types of obstacles, they only find out at short notice which ones are used in each race. It will primarily be young athletes from Germany who will be there. The top athletes are under competitive stress.
“UIPM will collect feedback from athletes and coaches over these two days,” the association announced. “The new discipline will then be further developed from this feedback.” After that, there will be more tests. The discipline could then already be passed at the next world association congress in Guatemala from November 14th to 16th.
One goal of the new discipline is to attract more athletes to modern pentathlon. Equestrian sport is relatively expensive – for the athletes and also for the organizers. In addition, the sport should become more dynamic and attractive for young sports fans. A working group including media experts such as Facebook sports director Peter Hutton helped with the selection.
The world association is under great pressure: At the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the modern pentathlon is not on the program. You still have to convince the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to include the sport. UIPM President Klaus Schormann has already met with IOC Boss Thomas Bach to promote the new discipline.
In addition, the association has to convince its athletes. There is a lot of opposition from these, since the pentathlon is no longer the same without riding. The UIPM is aware of the passion with which “the athletes want to hold on to horseback riding in order to preserve history and tradition”. We know that it is a “very difficult time for our sport”. But the Olympic status is the most important thing and you have to protect it. So there are still plenty of obstacles to be overcome.