Horses traded for obstacle course: Riding phase cut from Olympic pentathlon

A review of the sport had revealed that "the Riding portion of the event has proven no longer viable".
A competitor in the Modern Pentathlon of Tokyo 2020. A review of the sport has revealed that “the Riding portion of the event has proven no longer viable”. © IOC/Nuno Gonçalves

The horse riding phase of the sport of Modern Pentathlon will be replaced by an “obstacle discipline” for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

The move by the international governing body of the sport to replace the riding discipline from the event follows controversy during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, when riders struggled to control the horses and a national coach was censured for striking a horse.

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 Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) will test two variations of the new Obstacle Discipline, which headed off more than 60 proposals that were put forward as a replacement.

Introduced in the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games by the founder of the Modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, the Modern Pentathlon was created to identify the most complete athlete.

The UIPM noted that the Olympic programme had evolved over the years to attract greater audiences around the world, and was reviewing “every aspect of the sport”.

“One of the outcomes of this effort is that the Riding portion of the event has proven no longer viable,” it said.

In reaching its decision, the UIPM’s New 5th Discipline Working Group considered athletes’ views, medical aspects (including workload, injuries and anti-doping), TV, media and marketing opportunities.

The group took into account IOC requirements for the Los Angeles 2028 programme, and selected the Obstacle Discipline for several reasons, including a reduction in cost and complexity, greater accessibility, its appeal to audiences, and simple and safe infrastructure for training that was sustainable for organisers worldwide

The UIPM Executive Board decided to test the combination of the Obstacle Discipline alongside Fencing, Swimming and the Laser Run. Testing will begin immediately after the UIPM 2022 Pentathlon World Cup Final in Ankara, Turkey, in late June. Following comprehensive testing, the final decision will be taken by the UIPM Congress.

Yasser Hefny, Chairman of the UIPM Athletes Committee, led a Focus Group composed of 26 athletes from 22 countries.

“After many months of detailed talks we are on the brink of a landmark decision that would change the history of Modern Pentathlon, the sport we all love, forever,” he said.

“When the mandate to explore the possibility to replace Riding from our sport was first announced, my fellow athletes worldwide had a lot of questions and concerns. I believe the New 5th Discipline Working Group has been very thorough in evaluating the options put forward by our community, using internal and external expertise to good effect.

“While we still have specifics to finalize, we have a new and exceptional opportunity to grow and give visibility to our sport for the benefit of many generations to come, and that’s very exciting.”

The UIPM said that the introduction of the new discipline to Modern Pentathlon after Paris 2024, along with the complete reassessment of the sport, is designed to ensure the future of a sport that has been a core part of the Olympic Games for more than 100 years.

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