Olympics-Modern pentathlon hopes obstacle race will secure spot in 2028 Games
The 2024 Paris Games competition will still be staged with horse riding as a discipline. The international federation of the sport (UIPM) will put the obstacle course race to a vote at its congress in November before submitting the change to the International Olympic Committee.
Modern pentathlon is hoping a new obstacle course race discipline set to replace horse riding will carry the sport to the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics and a secure future beyond.
The new discipline, where athletes run and overcome obstacles in timed competitions, is set to replace the equestrian element in the Olympic modern pentathlon after more than a century if the sport gets the nod for the 2028 Games. The 2024 Paris Games competition will still be staged with horse riding as a discipline.
The international federation of the sport (UIPM) will put the obstacle course race to a vote at its congress in November before submitting the change to the International Olympic Committee. The decision to drop riding came after German coach Kim Raisner struck a horse at last year's Tokyo Games when it refused to jump a fence, which led to widespread criticism of the sport.
The IOC dropped modern pentathlon along with weightlifting and boxing from an initial list of 28 sports for the Los Angeles Games, saying each would need to meet different criteria by 2023 to be included in the final list. The UIPM has been testing the obstacle discipline in recent months at all levels with feedback being overwhelmingly positive from both athletes and federations, said UIPM president Klaus Schormann.
"I was so happy to hear and see athletes wanting to repeat it in their competitions," Schormann told Reuters on Wednesday in an online interview of the feedback he got from the most recent test in Italy on Sept. 9-10. "The message from our national federations is they all want to keep our sport in the Olympic movement. We have understood clearly what we have to do for the young generation to fulfil their dream of becoming Olympic athletes," Schormann added.
The sport, created by Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, has been part of the Games since 1912. FINANCIAL IMPACT
Repercussions would be wide-ranging should the sport miss out on the Games and its share of the revenues the Olympics generate. UIPM officials are confident they can convince the IOC of the sports' added value with the introduction of obstacle running.
"For the IOC what we would like to tell them is (the reason) why we could be successful with this new edition is... accessibility, universality, popularity, and the media attraction," said UIPM Secretary General Shiny Fang. Replacing riding with obstacle racing opens up a much wider pool of potential athletes, including runners, as well as wider regions that did not have resources for equestrian training.
"By removing the barriers of riding and having easy accessible sport like obstacle discipline, it is a very big potential to get Africa into the Games with a new discipline," said former world champion Yasser Hefni of Egypt, who now heads the UIPM's athletes commission. The federation hopes the change will generate more sponsorship, broadcasting and marketing opportunities as well as reduce the cost and logistics of staging a competition without horses.
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