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After controversy arose at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics about the welfare of the horses in the modern pentathlon, show jumping has been voted to be removed as an event.
The decision came from the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne’s (UIPM) executive board to replace horseback riding with a new sport.
The vote came after the upsetting Olympic moments when a German coach punched a horse after it refused to jump a fence with Germany’s Annika Schleu.
Schleu struggled all throughout her ride aboard Saint Boy, resulting in a disturbing treatment of the horse.
The Olympic Pentathlon Controversy
Competitors of the modern pentathlon are assigned horses are random. Riders only have a few minutes to practice with their mount before entering the show ring.
Schleu lost her cool while struggling to get Saint Boy to jump and repeatedly struck him with her crop. Her coach, Kim Raisner, was caught punching Saint Boy as well, causing him more distress.
Schleu went into the showjumping round sitting atop first place. However, after failing to complete the course, a tearful Schleu came out of the round with zero points. She went on to finish in 31st place overall.
Pictures and videos from the incident soon made global headlines, leading people to demand a change in the sport.
In addition to Schleu, other modern pentathlon riders struggled as well, with a total of six competitors failing to score.
Originally developed to help cavalry riders to develop the skills they need for war, the modern pentathlon consists of fencing, swimming, horseback riding, pistol shooting, and running. However, after 109 years, showjumping will no longer be an element of the competition.
In order to preserve the sport’s status in the future, the UIPM took action to drop horseback riding from the events.
Though several news outlets say that cycling will replace showjumping, the UIPM has yet to confirm this.
Though some rejoice over this news, many athletes are upset as they believe that removing horseback riding fundamentally changes the sport. Multiple former Olympians have differing opinions on the matter.
“I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing. All sports evolve, and no sport is immune from change in the modern TV era,” said British Olympian Greg Whyte. Whyte took home silver at the 1994 Olympic Games.
On the other hand, Olympian Joe Choong said, “If it changed to cycling, I wouldn’t be in the sport. It would not suit me at all. I am sure a lot of athletes would feel the same.”
Choong is the current reigning men’s gold medalist in the sport. The change will occur after the 2024 Paris Olympics, happening in time for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.
Hundreds of athletes, including both gold medalists from Tokyo, signed a letter to the president and executive board of UIPM, urging them to resign.