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Modern pentathlon body approves obstacle course discipline to replace horse riding

Modern Pentathlon Obstacle Discipline

ANKARA, TURKIYE - JUNE 28: Athletes compete in the obstacle discipline of modern pentathlon during the new 5th discipline test in Ankara, Turkiye on June 28, 2022. 90 domestic and foreign athletes participated in the test race, held in Ankara for the first time in the world, hosted by the Turkish Modern Pentathlon Federation. The International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM), in cooperation with the World Disability Federation, tested the new branch ‘obstacle discipline’, which to be replaced with horse riding. (Photo by Ali Balikci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Modern pentathlon’s international governing body (UIPM) approved the addition of an obstacle course discipline as it bids to stay in the Olympic program.

UIPM adopted the new event by member federations vote at its congress on Saturday, six months after it chose to test out the obstacle discipline from among 60 proposals to replace horse riding.

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

UIPM has said horse riding will remain part of the modern pentathlon at the 2024 Paris Games. The obstacle discipline would make its Olympic debut in 2028, should modern pentathlon be on the program at those Games.

Of the 97 member federations in attendance Saturday, 83 voted and 69 of them voted in favor of the obstacle discipline. Eleven voted against and three abstained.

“The result provides UIPM with a mandate to propose a new-look modern pentathlon – with obstacle discipline replacing riding – to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for inclusion in the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games,” according to a Saturday press release from UIPM.

UIPM previously called it “the biggest shakeup” since the sport made its Olympic debut in 1912.

The sport has been on the Olympic program ever since but was not on the initial sports list for the 2028 Los Angeles Games. Neither was boxing nor weightlifting, sports with organizational and doping problems to address. Sports can still be added to the 2028 program as early as next year.

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

“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,” Bach said then.

Star modern pentathletes have voiced disapproval of replacing horse riding with an obstacle discipline. Reigning Olympic champion Joe Choong of Great Britain reportedly said he will quit the sport if and when the change is implemented.

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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