Modern pentathlon votes to swap horse riding with obstacles

The federations for modern pentathlon approved a decision to replace horse riding with “American Ninja Warrior”-style obstacle courses as a fifth discipline in order to save the sport from Olympic elimination.

There were 83 members who submitted a valid vote during the organization’s congress session, with 69 casting a ballot in favor, 11 against and three abstaining.

The next step: approval from the International Olympic Committee for the change.

As it currently stands, modern pentathlon in its current form of fencing, swimming, laser shooting, running and show jumping would be off the program after the 2024 Paris Games.

Modern pentathlon faced a major crossroads with the show-jumping component of the five-event competition coming under scrutiny after a German coach was filmed hitting an uncooperative horse during the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

In an effort to get back on the Olympic program, modern pentathlon’s governing body, known by its French acronym UIPM, tested out obstacle-course racing to replace horse riding. Ring swings and rope mazes could take center stage for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

There’s still time to get back on the program for LA ’28, too, should the IOC approve of a change.

“We are not forgetting our past, our heritage, but our goal is the future,” UIPM President Dr. Klaus Schormann said in a release. “It’s very important that our voting members today provided a strong mandate for obstacle discipline to be integrated into our Olympic multi-sport.”

To some in the modern-pentathlon community, this sort of change tears at the very essence of a sport that’s intricately tied to horses. This is a sport that’s been part of the Olympics for more than 100 years. Invented by IOC founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin, it has gone through several transformations, like pistol shooting replaced by laser guns before the 2012 London Games.

This change also has been viewed as a way to modernize the sport in a time when the Olympics seek a younger audience.

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