Modern Pentathlon chiefs confirm horse riding to be removed from the sport

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Modern Pentathlon chiefs have confirmed that horse riding will be removed from the sport after the Paris 2024 Olympics, with the search already underway for a suitable replacement.

In a letter to athletes, the sport’s world governing body said the decision, which was ratified this week by its executive board, was designed to keep its Olympic place intact.

The sport – which blends riding with running, shooting, fencing and swimming – was conceived by the founder of the modern Games, Baron Pierre De Coubertain, as a means to identify the complete sportsman, and has been contested at every Olympics since 1912.

However, the riding element – in which athletes are paired with unfamiliar horses – came in for criticism at Tokyo 2020, after a German coach was sent home for punching a horse whose refusal eliminated leader Anika Schleu from the competition.

And with the sport facing a battle to sustain its place on the Olympic programme for Los Angeles in 2028, UIPM officials say they aim to identify a replacement which is “relevant to global youth” and which “fit[s] inside the new pentathlon stadium and urban settings.”

In its letter, the UIPM wrote: “We know that this information will be surprising and even shocking to you.

Team GB Olympic Modern Pentathlon Team Announcement – Hyde Park Barracks
Pentathlon’s historically quirky blend of sports is no more (Simon Cooper/PA)

“It is not very long since we made a commitment to review and protect the riding discipline in the wake of the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

“But life within the Olympic movement changes fast. While our sport is confirmed for Paris 2024 with our exciting new format in place (including riding), Los Angeles 2028 is a different matter and we must be flexible and embrace change once again.

“We would be making a mistake if we were to take our place in the Olympic programme for granted past Paris 2024. It is not granted for us, it is not granted for anybody.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – Day Fourteen
Kate French made it a British pentathlon double in Tokyo (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Our sport continues to lag behind in development and growth due to a number of circumstances – and one of them is, very importantly, the horses. We have to finally take a decision on that matter – it is necessary to save modern pentathlon in the future.”

Leading athletes have criticised the development with Britain’s Olympic champion Joe Choong intimating he could quit the sport which “wouldn’t be the same” without the riding element.

Sydney 2000 bronze medallist Kate Allenby accused the UIPM of launching a “clandestine” campaign to rid the sport of equestrian and told the PA news agency: “It is not modern pentathlon without riding.

“It is a feeling of shock and anger at the lack of a consultation process. The athletes feel utterly let down and betrayed by the sport’s administration.”

Meanwhile David Armstrong, the chairman of Pentathlon GB, also criticised the suddenness of the decision, saying: “This is a sad day for Modern Pentathlon.

“Many of our athletes came into the sport from an equestrian background and have a proud tradition as accomplished and keen riders.

“We are aware that this decision will come as a significant shock to them and we will be supporting them through this unsettling time.

“We are, of course, disappointed at the suddenness of this decision and the lack of consultation until now but we also understand that Modern Pentathlon’s place in the Olympic Games is very important and was under threat.”

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