Modern pentathlon cuts riding phase after 2024 Olympics

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A rider at the test event for Modern Pentathlon's new format, in Budapest, Hungary in April 2021.
A rider at the test event for Modern Pentathlon’s new format, in Budapest, Hungary in April 2021. © UIPM World Pentathlon / Virág Buza

The sport of Modern Pentathlon will not have a horse riding discipline after 2024 after the sport’s governing body opened up consultation on a replacement.

The changes to the sport followed controversy during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, when riders struggled to control the horses and a national coach was censured for striking a horse.

In an open letter to athletes, the Executive Board of the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) noted that there would be surprise and shock at the “historic change”.

“It is not very long since we made a commitment to review and protect the Riding discipline in the wake of the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

“But life within the Olympic movement changes fast. While our sport is confirmed for Paris 2024 with our exciting new format in place (including Riding), Los Angeles 2028 is a different matter and we must be flexible and embrace change once again.”

There will still be a riding phase at the 2024 Paris Olympics, which will be the first Games to feature the sport’s new TV-friendly elimination format, enabling audiences to watch all five disciplines in 90 minutes within a Pentathlon Stadium.

The Innovation Commission of the UIPM recommended late last month that Riding be replaced with another discipline “that enhances the popularity and credibility of Modern Pentathlon, while preserving its status as the ultimate physical and mental sporting challenge – as envisaged by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the Modern Olympic Games”. The change was endorsed by the UIPM’s Executive Board.

A rider with his horse after jumping their round at the test event for Modern Pentathlon's new format, in Budapest, Hungary in April 2021.
A rider with his horse after jumping their round at the test event for Modern Pentathlon’s new format, in Budapest, Hungary in April 2021. © UIPM World Pentathlon

All changes resulting from the consultation process will be implemented in time for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Summer Games.

The Innovation Commission was set up to continuously monitor the composition of Modern Pentathlon and review its suitability for the Olympic Games in the context of Olympic Agenda 2020 and Olympic Agenda 2020+5 – the strategic roadmap of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The criteria for the replacement discipline includes that it is compatible with the new 90-minute format, does not fall under the governance of another IOC-recognised federation, is attractive and relevant for global youth and future generations, be exciting and easily understandable for spectators, and be low-cost for both athletes and organisers.

UIPM President Dr Klaus Schormann said the sport had evolved many times in recent decades to meet the changing expectations of the modern world.

“This evolution has created more appeal for young athletes and families, more value for spectators and TV / digital audiences, a reduced environmental impact and 100% gender equality since the Sydney 2000 Olympic Summer Games.”

“We can be rightly proud of what our global family has achieved, and now the time has come to be bold and ambitious once again in following the strong recommendations of our UIPM Innovation Commission.”

UIPM 1st Vice President and IOC Member Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr said the organisation would be “making a mistake if we were to take our place in the Olympic programme for granted past Paris 2024. It is not granted for us, it is not granted for anybody.”

“We really need to make sure that in that new environment, with all of these new sports that have demonstrated strength and a lot of traction with people and media, we have to make sure that our sport is flawless,” he said.

The equestrian discipline of show jumping has been ever-present in Modern Pentathlon since the multi-sport was created by Coubertin, the pioneer of the Modern Olympic Games, and introduced to the world at Stockholm 1912.

Swimming, Fencing, Running and Shooting have also been retained throughout the past 11 decades, although the last two disciplines were merged to create the Laser Run that now provides a climax to every Modern Pentathlon and Tetrathlon.

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