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Modern pentathlon’s new obstacle discipline includes monkey bars, tsunami wall

Modern Pentathlon - Olympics: Day 15

CHOFU, JAPAN - AUGUST 07: A general view in the 200 metre freestyle swimming heat four of the Men’s Modern Pentathlon on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Stadium on August 07, 2021 in Chofu, Japan. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

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Monkey bars and a tsunami wall could be coming to the Olympics.

Details for the new obstacle discipline of modern pentathlon were announced Tuesday.

The sport’s international governing body said last year that the horse riding discipline had to be removed to boost the chances of keeping modern pentathlon’s place in the Olympics beyond 2024.

The obstacle discipline, chosen from among 60 proposals, will replace horse riding in the Olympic modern pentathlon lineup starting with the 2028 Los Angeles Games, pending approval at a November congress. Star athletes have voiced disapproval, and modern pentathlon still must be added to the LA Olympic program.

The discipline that will debut with a test event June 27-28 in Turkey includes two to four athletes racing each other over a course up to 100 meters long with up to 10 obstacles. The list of obstacles in play:

Ascending steps
Rope swing
1.5-meter wall
Monkey bars
Offset steps
0.5-meter low crawl
Rings rig
Wheels rig
Balance beam
Angled ladders
Finish ‘Tsunami’ curved wall

Modern pentathlon’s governing body called it “the biggest shakeup” since the sport made its Olympic debut in 1912.

Athletes will “run, walk, climb, crawl, slither, scramble or otherwise propel themselves to the finish line of a bespoke course,” according to a press release.

Modern pentathlon will be held at the 2024 Paris Games with horse riding, but it is not currently on the 2028 Los Angeles program. It could still be added for 2028.

“They must demonstrate a significant reduction in cost and complexity and improvements across the areas for safety, accessibility, universality, appeal for youth and general public,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in December.

It has been reported that horse riding was encouraged to be replaced after an incident of horse abuse at the Tokyo Olympics -- a German coach hit a horse that refused to jump -- but Bach did not mention that in his public comments about the event’s Olympic future.

Brits Joe Choong and Kate French, who won the gold medals in Tokyo, are among the modern pentathletes who have spoken out against the removal of horse riding.

The other modern pentathlon events are fencing, swimming and a combined running and shooting event. Modern pentathlon was created by the founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, and has roots in the duties required of a soldier from the late 19th century.

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