Other Sports Olympics Farewell to the horse obstacles ahead for Pentathlon
Other Sports Olympics Farewell to the horse obstacles ahead for Pentathlon

Other Sports: Olympics-Farewell to the horse, obstacles ahead for Pentathlon

(Reuters) – Modern pentathlon has obstacles ahead as it bids farewell to the horse at the Paris Olympics and prepares for a future more familiar to fans of Ninja Warrior and Tough Mudder.

The blend of fencing, freestyle swimming, show jumping, pistol shooting and cross-country running caused a commotion at the 2021 Tokyo Games when a German coach struck a horse that refused a fence.

The sport was dropped from the initial list for the 2028 Los Angeles Games but reinstated after the governing UIPM, led by 77-year-old German Klaus Schormann, decided the equestrian element would be replaced by obstacle racing post-Paris.

The coming change has caused ructions, with some athletes threatening to walk away but the sport hoping to appeal to a younger and more diverse audience already sold on popular obstacle course franchises.

“To continue our Olympic future we had to make that change,” Britain’s former world champion Jamie Cooke, who works with the Swiss team and is on the UIPM’s athletes’ committee, told Reuters.

“What we’ve seen over the last year, year and a half now, is an acceptance.

“With Paris we know it will be that close of the chapter, it will be the end of the era — an era that saw us as one of the oldest Olympic sports and there is real tradition and pride in that — but we know we have to modernise.

“We know that going forward this does provide us with a huge opportunity to capture a new audience, a new demographic and hopefully new athletes as we move forwards to make us really successful.”

That may be wishful thinking, with the sport’s name carrying more than a touch of irony given its decades-long battle to stay relevant.

Enthusiasts point to continuous evolution since its debut in 1912 as the, possibly apocryphal, creation of Olympics founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin to highlight the skills of a 19th century cavalry officer.

The firearms and swords are now laser pistols and electric epees and in four years’ time it will be courses instead of horses.

Whether that is enough to raise the profile more than every four years remains to be seen.

In Paris at least, the horses will go out in style — saddled up for one last ride in the gardens of the Chateau de Versailles, palatial home of the 17th century ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV.

As far as the medals are concerned, Britain won both the men’s and women’s golds at Tokyo 2020 with Joe Choong and Kate French.

Egypt will be top contenders with the Elgendy brothers Mohamed and 2020 silver medallist Ahmed on top form in the World Cup while France also have good medal potential.

“Egypt have been on the (men’s) podium in two positions at every single World Cup (this year),” said Cooke. “The Egyptian cohort is incredibly strong.”

Britain has won a women’s pentathlon medal at five of the six Games since both sexes were represented in 2000 while Italy have double world champion Elena Micheli.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Clare Fallon)

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