Removing riding from the modern pentathlon will not save the sport – it will simply accelerate its demise


The International Modern Pentathlon Union’s proclamation last week that horseback riding should be ditched as one of the five sports disciplines for the 2028 Olympics has left pentathletes around the world shocked, angry and sad.

And me. The world governing body says if you don’t get rid of horseback riding, the sport will end. I would say the opposite is true, by removing horseback riding it speeds up the demise of the sport and changes the character of the event into, essentially, a triathlon with bells on it.

In accordance with its “normal democratic processes” – which the executive council has completely ignored by not having consulted any pentathlete or any of the national federations which are affiliated to it to make its decision – the discussions will begin Friday at its seat in Monaco. on the options of the new fifth discipline.

For the sake of democracy, pentathletes are invited to attend a video conference and speak; cycling, climbing, skateboarding or kite surfing, or if we stick to the original idea of ​​Baron Pierre de Coubertin who created the concept 109 years ago, enough to test skills a cavalry officer behind enemy lines; Game.

I wouldn’t mind being a fly on the Zoom call because I suspect the UIPM might find that most of its members want to talk about the last decision, not the next.

There has been talk, on and off, for years that horse riding would one day be popular, but no one really believed it. However, the catalyst was the incident in Tokyo when a German coach was kicked out of matches after losing his temper with recalcitrant show jumping rider Saint Boy, who failed to come close to German pentathlete Annika Schleu.

Ironically, Schleu is among the overwhelming majority of pentathletes who are against the decision to give up riding. It appears that the International Olympic Committee put its arm firmly around the UIPM’s shoulder when it made the decision.

The governing body cited force majeure – the IOC meets later this month to determine which sports are inside or outside Los Angeles – for ignoring its “normal democratic processes,” but one national federation, at least, is challenging the legality of this challenge that it should follow all its processes because it is not an emergency.

One of the reasons the UIPM has abolished horse riding is that it considers that horses make the sport inaccessible to many people and therefore make it elitist. It seems a weak argument.

Based on this, show jumping – for an Olympic standard horse you will fetch at least £ 1million – and eventing are also on thin ice. And what about sailing or the Winter Olympics as a whole that excludes pretty much anyone who doesn’t live near the snow? And have you seen the price of a ski pass lately?

Of course, the vast majority of British pentathletes, including our own gold medalist in Tokyo, Kate French, would never have gotten involved in the sport without horses. She doesn’t own the horses that she rides, they are provided making her pretty much the least elite of all types of competitive riding.

Another reason given is the welfare of horses which, if the IOC has done their research, will know this is a touchy subject in liberal California, and the real aspect of fairness or fairness. lottery to draw a good or a bad horse.

This problem was resolved a few months after Tokyo and a riding task force was set up among the national federations who came up with good ideas on licensing riders only when they were of a certain age. level and changing the scoring system, but this was totally ignored by the UIPM.

Quitting horse riding from the sport may not be so much of a accomplished fact as however believes the UIPM. On Thursday, the online petition from the modern pentathlon athlete community calling for the resignation of the IUPM President and Board of Directors continued to gain momentum and, having lost the trust of its members, many pentathletes would not mind the President being the sport’s next non-seated runner.


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