The proclamation of the Union Internationale de Pentaathlon Moderne last week that horseback riding will be dropped as one of the sport’s five disciplines for the 2028 Olympics has left pentathletes around the world shocked, angry and sad.
And I. The world government says that if you don’t get rid of driving, the sport will end. I’d say the opposite is true, eliminating riding accelerates the sport’s demise and changes the character of the event into essentially a triathlon with bells on it.
In keeping with its “normal democratic processes” – something the board of directors completely ignored by not consulting any pentathlete or any of the national federations associated with it in making the decision – the discussion will begin Friday at headquarters in Monaco about the possibilities for the new fifth discipline.
For the sake of democracy, pentathletes are invited to tune in to a video conference and have their say; cycling, climbing, skateboarding or kitesurfing, or if we stick to the original idea of Baron Pierre de Coubertin behind the concept 109 years ago, something to test the skills of a cavalry officer behind enemy lines; gaming.
I wouldn’t mind being a fly on the Zoom call, as I suspect the UIPM finds that most of its members want to talk about the last decision, not the next.
It’s been talked about for years, on and off, that one day driving would pull the punch, but no one really believed it would happen. However, the catalyst for this was the Tokyo incident when a German coach was kicked out of the games after she lost her temper with the unruly jumperSaint Boy, who failed to gel in any way with German pentathlete Annika Schleu.
Ironically, Schleu is one of the overwhelming majority of pentathletes who oppose the decision to stop riding. It appears that the International Olympic Committee had its arm firmly around the UIPM’s shoulder when it made the decision.
The governing body has cited: force majeur — the IOC is meeting later this month to determine which sports are in or out of Los Angeles — for ignoring the “normal democratic processes,” but at least one national federation is contesting the legality of that dispute that it should have all of its trials follow because it is not an emergency.
One of the reasons for the UIPM to abolish riding is because it believes that horses make the sport inaccessible to many people and therefore make it elitist. That seems like a weak argument.
On that basis, jumping – for an Olympic standard horse you’re looking at at least £1 million – and eventing are also on thin ice. And what about sailing or the entire Winter Olympics, which pretty much excludes anyone who doesn’t live near snow? And have you seen the price of a ski pass lately?
Of course, the vast majority of British pentathletes, including our very own gold medalist in Tokyo, Kate French, would never have been involved in the sport had it not been for horses. She does not own the horses she rides, they are supplied which makes her almost enough the least elite of all types of competitive riding.
Another reason mentioned is the welfare of horses, that once the IOC has done their research they will know it’s a touchy subject in liberal California, and the actual fairness or lottery aspect of drawing a good or bad horse.
This came up in the few months after Tokyo and a riding working group was set up between national federations that came up with some good ideas about licensing riders only if they were of a certain standard and changed the scoring system, but it was totally ignored by the UIPM.
Dropping out of the sport may not be such a problem done however, as the UIPM believes. On Thursday, the modern pentathlon athlete community’s online petition calling on the president and the board of directors of the IUPM to step down continued to gain momentum and, having lost member confidence, many pentathlon members are out there. who wouldn’t mind if the president was the sport’s next unseeded rider.