Words by Maycee Rogers, Staff Writer

Significant changes are to be implemented to the modern pentathlon as horse riding is to be dropped and replaced with cycling starting at the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games. The change is set to occur due to the distressing scenes witnessed at the Tokyo 2020 games when Germany’s modern pentathlon coach Kim Raisner punched a horse. 

Baron Pierre de Coubertin invented the modern pentathlon to identify the ultimate sportsman. It has been a core Olympic event at every Olympics since 1912.

The event tests athletes in fencing, swimming, show jumping, pistol shooting and cross-country running. However, the modern pentathlon’s governing body has confirmed that horse riding will be removed from the sport after the Paris 2024 games. It is understood that the modern pentathlon’s governing body has taken a vote to remove the riding element in which athletes are paired with an unfamiliar horse and to replace it with cycling. 

The decision taken by the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne’s (UIPM) executive board comes as a result of the scenes that unfolded at the Tokyo Games in which German Rider Annika Schleu’s horse Saint Boy was punched in the face by the German coach Kim Raisner after the horse refused to jump a fence. The UIPM is understood to have taken this action to preserve the sport’s status in the Olympics after it came under heavy criticism following the events in Tokyo.  

Speaking in an open letter addressed to pentathletes, the UIPM said “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”. They ended the statement by saying, “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.”

Athletes in the sport have shared their views on the developments. Former British modern pentathlete Kate Allenby who won Bronze at the Sydney Games said, “any move to replace riding would be a disaster”.  She also added that “this needs talking about because it is not a modern pentathlon if it hasn’t got riding in it.” 

The UIPM took disciplinary action against Kim Raisner following her actions and said they would conduct a full review. In a statement given in August, the UIPM said, “Horse welfare and athlete safety will be at the centre of this process.” They added, “The UIPM 2021 congress in November will provide an opportunity for UIPM’s national member federations to participate in a collective effort to secure the future of riding in modern pentathlon.”

Britain’s Team GB won both the men’s and women’s modern pentathlon event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games courtesy of Joe Choong and Kate French.

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