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the pentathletes ride on their high horses – Liberation

The modern pentathlon is confronted with an unprecedented balancing act: succeeding in its revolution while channeling the rebellion of its community. The revolution, first: Monday, May 2, the executive committee of the International Union of Modern Pentathlon (the UIPM) – the governing body of the discipline internationally – met to record the future integration of the obstacle course, a new event supposed to replace that of horse riding after the Olympic Games in Paris 2024.

“Two variants of the obstacle course were selected to be tested among more than 60 proposals for replacing the equestrian discipline in modern pentathlon”, details the UIPM. No other element has however filtered as to the formats envisaged for this race, which will be similar to an obstacle course. It will be possible to get an idea of ​​it very quickly since “testing will start immediately after the 2022 UIPM Pentathlon World Cup Final in Ankara (TUR) at the end of June”. Once the complete tests have been carried out, “a final decision will be taken by the UIPM Congress”adds the federation.

“Holy Boy Gate”

This is no small upheaval: since its integration into the Olympic program in 1912, the discipline has always kept its five events: fencing, pistol shooting, swimming, running and horse riding. For the latter, the pentathletes have twenty minutes to prepare on a horse drawn by lot, before performing a race of 350 to 450 meters, where 12 obstacles (including a double and a triple), for 15 jumps await them.

This was before the “Holy Boy Gate” changed the game. Saint Boy, named after this capricious horse, who was reluctant to jump over obstacles during the last Tokyo Olympics. Exasperated by his attitude, his rider Annika Schleu then manhandled him with a riding crop and spurs. Before her trainer took over, hitting the poor beast several times. Scenes widely relayed on social networks, giving a disastrous image of the discipline, which is not yet guaranteed to be part of the Olympic program for the 2028 Olympics (for the time being, like boxing and weightlifting, modern pentathlon is not on the list of the original 28 Olympic sports in California).

Inconceivable for the UIPM: in November 2021, it announced that it wanted to abolish the equestrian event, after the 2024 Paris Olympics. At the time, the UIPM was considering replacing it with cross-country. Except that the resemblance to triathlon would have been too striking. The obstacle course therefore took pole.

95% of unhappy athletes

The sling, now: it has been brewing since the very announcement of the change of formula, made without any real consultation with the athletes. Rather than removing a test to which they are broken and having to tame another, the main concerned have asked the body to reform it. The UIPM took note, and proposed to involve them in the ongoing discussions via a general consultation, under the approving eye of the IOC.

Today, the same athletes are ulcerated. They consider that they have been excluded from any “meaningful participation” over the past few months. the Guardian reports that the British Olympic champion of the last Tokyo edition, Joe Choong, has, with other pentathletes among the best of the circuit, signed a missive addressed Sunday – the day before this crucial meeting within the board of directors of the ‘UIPM – to the President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach.

They want the latter to intervene in the case, accusing the UIPM frontally of ignoring their demands. “The IOC has been clear in its expectation that athletes should play a central role in the review and consultation process for a fifth discipline, is it written in the letter. It didn’t happen. […] The UIPM consultation process has been illusory at best and, it seems, designed only to legitimize a predetermined outcome (which we are informed will be obstacle courses in collaboration with World OCR).”

The emissaries quote in particular a survey carried out by Pentathlon United, an independent body representing athletes: more than 95% of them say they are unhappy with the decision of the UIPM. They also call on the IOC to conduct a “thorough and independent investigation” on the lack of transparency shown by the body. “We face the greatest threat to our existence in over 100 years. Instead of an open, honest and transparent dialogue about the future direction of our sport, the UIPM management has chosen to maintain a closed and secret process with non-disclosure agreements imposed on anyone involved in the group. of work»berates the Guardian former British pentathlete Kate Allenby, suntanned in Sydney in 2000, among one of the most active in the campaign against the UIPM.

“Heartbreaking”

“I’m afraid it’s stabbing water. The decision has already been made, and I don’t think they [l’UIPM] will change their minds now, nor that any movement will change the decisionslipping on her side, resigned, Marie Oteiza, European champion and 10th of the last Tokyo Games, with Release. There are many equestrian fans among the pentathletes. There are some for whom it is very hard to see this event go, but to divide, to make noise, I do not know if it is a good thing for our sport.wonders the one for whom the abolition of horse riding has been “a heartbreaker”.

To justify its preference, the UIPM believes that obstacle racing is accessible and attractive to young people. An essential criterion for the IOC, which last December recommended a proposal for “the replacement of riding and demonstrate a significant reduction in cost and complexity and show improvements in safety, accessibility, universality and appeal to young people”.

Beyond the upheaval, the question of the transition will arise on the practitioner side: how to do it, for the athletes, in order to prepare Paris 2024 where horse riding will still be in order, and the years after with the obstacle course ? “It will have a much greater impact on the generations that are coming, believes Marie Oteiza, for whom the question does not arise: she had planned to stop after the French Olympics. She thinks : “For young people who do not yet have the potential to qualify in Paris, the objective now will be to switch to the new event. For those who are already in the circuit and continue after Paris, it will not be easy: preparing in just four years for a new event will be a big challenge to take up. In any case, Paris risks marking the end of the career of many pentathletes.

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