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Ninja Warrior obstacle course could find new home at 2028 Olympics

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Tokyo Modern Pentathalon
The 2028 Los Angeles Olympics might feature an obstacle course-style competition in the modern pentathlon that mimics "American Ninja Warrior."
USA TODAY Sports

Calling all "American Ninja Warrior" fans. It’s time to turn your eyes toward the Olympics.

According to Team USA, the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles could host the Games’ first-ever obstacle course-style competition. But before becoming part of the Olympic event list, the obstacle discipline is being tested in Ankura, Turkey, this week. 

The obstacles will resemble courses like those in "American Ninja Warrior" or "Sasuke," which is watched by millions of people in over 160 countries.

And while a decision might not come right away, extreme sports fans are closer now to watching monkey bars and the big “Tsunami” wall at the Olympics than they ever have been before. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the possibility of the Ninja Warrior obstacle course being added to the Summer Games, including what obstacles can be included and when the big test is being done:

 

What will the Olympic obstacle course look like?

The event is expected to replace riding in modern pentathlon. It will feature athletes competing on an obstacle course of 10 obstacles, up to approximately 100 meters long.

What obstacles are in an obstacle course?

Here are some obstacles that could be included in the competitive sport:

  • Ascending steps
  • A rope swing
  • A 1.5-meter wall
  • Monkey bars
  • Offset steps
  • A 0.5-meter low crawl
  • A rings rig
  • Under-over-under-over
  • A wheels rig
  • A balance beam
  • Angled ladders
  • “Tsunami” curved wall

Who will compete in the obstacle course at the Olympics?

The competition will be broken down into three categories: under 19; junior and senior pentathletes; and experienced obstacle athletes. 

The obstacle course component will be added as the new fifth discipline, replacing riding, in the medal competition.

When will the obstacle course be tested for Olympic qualification?

The 2022 Pentathlon World Cup Final took place from June 22-26 and the first day of testing began on June 27. 

The first day included a practical explanation of the test event and a training session. The second day – today, June 28 – will feature the qualification and final round competition.

Who approves the obstacle course as an official Olympic sport?

To confirm obstacle racing as the fifth discipline of modern pentathlon, the competition must first be approved by the UIPM (International Modern Pentathlon Union) Congress and then receive subsequent approval by the International Olympic Committee. 

When will the obstacle course component become an official Olympic program?

Tests are being held in June and decisions from the IOC will be made in December. 

If the obstacle competition is approved, it would officially be on the Olympic program after the 2024 Olympics in Paris, therefore receiving inclusion in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

What is modern pentathlon and what discipline will the obstacle course replace at the Olympics?

Modern pentathlon can be defined as simply the test for the “complete athlete.”

Debuting in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, pentathlon became a world-renowned sports attraction. It consists of five disciplines, including fencing, freestyle swimming, laser pistol shooting, running and (formerly) equestrian riding. 

After the Tokyo Olympic catastrophe, the UIPM voted to expel riding from the Olympics. In order for the pentathlon to keep its Olympic status, riding had to immediately be replaced with another discipline – hence obstacle courses.

Throughout the years of modern pentathlon’s presence in the Games, Spartan founder and CEO Joe De Sena has been putting his two cents in about including obstacle course-type scenarios in the Olympics. 

 

De Sena claims modern pentathlon would be the “home” of his long-desired obstacle-style addition to the competition.

In an op-ed for Sports Business Journal, De Sena wrote, “The ancient Spartans used obstacles to train their warriors … Around the same time, the Greeks held their first Olympic Games. There was no high-tech gear 2,500 years ago … It was all about the athletes and their inherent drive to be better, faster, and stronger.”

“OCR [obstacle course racing] is a modern-day expression of Spartan training and the first Olympians’ competitive spirit,” he added.

And considering the popularization of shows like "American Ninja Warrior," the debut of this OCR-type competition might be exactly what the Olympics seeks right now, in regard to viewership. 

“Obstacles have a long history in pentathlon, and introducing a new discipline that is practiced … shows have the potential to widen the audience for all stakeholders and enhance the appeal of the sport on the Olympic program,” said Ian Adamson, president of FISO (the Fédération Internationale de Sports d’Obstacles).