Modern Pentathlon Moves on From Equestrian and Tests Obstacle Course | Sports Destination Management

Modern Pentathlon Moves on From Equestrian and Tests Obstacle Course

Jul 16, 2022 | By: Michael Popke

Athletes from around the world have had their opportunity to sample modern pentathlon’s new Obstacle Discipline in Ankara, Turkey. A second official test of the concept takes place in Manila, Philippines, in August.


This is a big deal, because an obstacle course event is under consideration to replace the equestrian show jumping discipline of Modern Pentathlon — which also include fencing, swimming, laser pistol shooting and running. The International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM), the sport’s highest governing body, announced in May that an obstacle course would be tested as a potential replacement for the riding discipline after the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The first test event for the Obstacle Discipline was held in Ankara, Turkey, in June. Of the 36 pentathletes who competed, 28 answered a tailored survey provided by UIPM. Nine obstacle athletes responded to a second survey and 15 observers (coaches and officials) answered a third. More than nine out of 10 participating pentathletes (92%) and observers (93%) said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the overall test event experience.

Other insights from the survey included:


• 88% of pentathletes were satisfied or very satisfied with the enjoyment of the competition.


• 84% of pentathletes were satisfied or very satisfied with the design of obstacles (look and feel).


• 71% of pentathletes and 92% of observers were satisfied or very satisfied with the level of technical difficulty.


• 68% of pentathletes were satisfied or very satisfied with the physical demands of the course (only 8% were unsatisfied).


• 72% of pentathletes and 74% of observers were satisfied or very satisfied with the excitement of the head-to-head format.


• 84% of pentathletes and 82% of observers were satisfied or very satisfied with the attractiveness of the obstacle design to global audiences and youth.


Modern Pentathlon Moves on From Equestrian and Tests Obstacle Course
Modern pentathlon has officially announced its newest discipline.

“Some athletes have been understandably cautious about embracing the new discipline, which is a fundamental change to Modern Pentathlon and the way we train and compete,” Egypt’s Yasser Hefny, Chair of the UIPM Athletes Committee, said in a statement. “It is good to see that some who opposed Obstacle Discipline initially are now more open to the idea, and feedback has been especially positive from junior and youth athletes who participated in Ankara. All pentathletes who took part demonstrated their versatility in adapting to this new opportunity.”


Sasitorn Kunkit, a modern pentathlete from Thailand, said the change will help boost participation in the sport in some countries.


“If Obstacle Discipline replaces Riding, … it means we can truly dream of competing in the Olympic Games,” Kunkit said in a statement. “Right now, we simply can’t compete at the same level because riding is too difficult to organize here. We actually have good opportunities to train for Obstacle Discipline, because we can use a special gym here where Navy Seals from the U.S. also train.”


The course tested in Ankara was a SASUKE/Ninja Warrior obstacle course as seen on Tokyo Broadcasting System Television (TBS) since 1997. At the request of UIPM and the Fédération Internationale de Sports d’Obstacles (FISO), TBS agreed to provide the obstacle course currently used to film local versions of the SASUKE/Ninja Warrior format shown in France, Poland, and other European countries. The Wall Flip, Parallel Pipes, Wind Chimes and Tire Swing obstacles were featured. (All told, the Ninja Warrior series is seen in more than 160 countries, and local versions are produced in more than 20 countries, including the United States.)


Additionally, the Ninja Warrior-branded course, as seen on the TV program, "American Ninja Warrior," will be part of the new Ninja Warrior Adventure Park, to be located in Santa Ana, California, in Centennial's Mainplace Mall. The fact that more spectators can try to conquer the obstacles could mean they will find the new discipline at the Olympics to be more relatable.



“You won’t have to be a top-level athlete to participate, which allows fans of all ages to engage in the fun,” Adrian Griffin, the CEO of the TV brand’s adventure parks outfit, a division of Air Park USA, told reporters at Chain Store Age.


The difficulty of the demanding obstacles presented on TV is scaled down in the consumer version of the obstacle course, inviting fans of the show who’ve never climbed a rock wall or practiced Ninja tactics to take part in the fun.


August’s competition in Manila, officially named “New Pentathlon Discipline Test Event II,” will be held at Bridgetowne Central Park on August 6-7 in parallel with the Asian leg of the Ninja World Cup, run by the Pilipinas Obstacle Sports Federation (POSF) in collaboration with FISO.

All of this came about because of alleged mistreatment of a horse by German modern pentathlete Annika Schleu and her coach at the 2020 Summer Olympics last year in Tokyo.


“I greatly respect the history and tradition of the modern pentathlon,” Tom Shephard, Chair of USA Pentathlon, said in a statement at the time of the change. “I have appreciated the grace, power and spectacle of the equestrian discipline of riding in our sport, and what it takes to develop synergy between rider and animal. That being said, it has limited our ability as a Federation to be more inclusive, more broadly participated and viewed. Further, it has proven to be difficult and expensive from a fiscal standpoint. … We appreciate that this decision, post-Paris, will impact all of us going forward. Recognizing this, I hope that it provides us all with a tremendous opportunity to grow the sport of pentathlon in the U.S. and look forward to your input and participation as we move forward.”

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