Dr. Klaus Schormann, president of modern pentathlon’s international governing organization, Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), has stated that the sport must evolve or “die” if it is to retain its Olympic status.
After UIPM submitted a proposal to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) comprising only four of its regular five disciplines, modern pentathlon was removed from the preliminary list of sports for Los Angeles 2028 in December.
The sport opted, reportedly under pressure from the IOC, to abolish equestrian show jumping after an incident at the Tokyo Olympics in which a German coach was expelled for punching a horse.
Now testing obstacle course racing as a replacement for show jumping, UIPM is expected to submit its renewed bid to be in Los Angeles by December. According to the IOC, the bid must “demonstrate a significant reduction in cost and complexity as well as improvements in safety, accessibility, universality, and youth appeal.”
The proposed move, which will take effect after Paris 2024, has been met with vehement opposition from a number of elite pentathletes, including Joe Choong, the reigning men’s Olympic champion.
He and several others have stated that they will leave the sport if the modification is made permanent.
Schormann, though, told Insider that while he understood the complaints of some, the sport must improve in order to have a future in the Olympics.
Schormann, who has served as UIPM President for more than three decades, stated, “We are making a major shift in response to the IOC’s message: ‘Change, or be changed.'”
“That is what we are now doing. There are many who wish to maintain the status quo of the sport. But if we do that, we will be eliminated [from the Olympics].
“If you go to the doctor and he or she prescribes a pill that will extend your life by ten years, you should take it. If you deny that, you die. It’s your choice. Do you want to die or do you want to ensure that future generations have a chance?
“We are completely focused on future generations. In business, in culture, in everything, the future holds the key to our survival.”
The modern pentathlon is experimenting with obstacle course racing as its fifth event.
The decision to test obstacle course racing as an alternative for show jumping was taken by 21 members of a “working group.”
Four of the individuals were Olympic pentathletes, including 2018 World and 2019 European champion James Cooke of Great Britain.
Cooke told Insider that obstacle racing was chosen because it aligned with the IOC’s objectives to cut expenses and increase accessibility. This decision was made with consultation from the sport’s numerous bodies and country federations.
“Our Olympic sport is on the verge of collapse,” he remarked. “We are very, very low, if not at the bottom, in a number of ratings such as ticket sales, viewership, and participation, and that is what has generated this scenario; thus, we must make a decision and change.”
According to a Yahoo report, the modern pentathlon at the Olympics “consistently ranks last for television audiences and internal measures of social engagement.”
According to the 2022 book “Athletes Pressing Charges: Fighting for the Future of Modern Pentathlon” by Jorg Krieger, global participation in the sport is extremely low.
“Obstacle course racing was chosen because it is more accessible than show jumping,” explained Cooke, the current head coach of the Greek national modern pentathlon team.
“We want to be able to display a fast, dynamic sport that is easily accessible and more cost efficient in order to increase modern pentathlon participation rates.”