• Fran Cleland

Pentathlon equestrian is gone, will other events follow?

COMMENT


ABOVE: Showjumping in the Olympic discipline of modern pentathlon is no longer.

IT LOOKS like the horse-riding element of the pentathlon is finished after the first test event of the new format without showjumping was held at Ankara, Turkey.


More than 100 athletes from 19 countries registered to race across six categories – four for pentathletes and two for obstacle athletes.


No injuries were reported except blistered hands for pentathletes unfamiliar with the demands of obstacle racing.


Comments like those made by Australian women’s champion Olivia Vivian show that the classic horses riding phase is already a thing of the past.


“The pentathletes I saw on the obstacle course today were incredible,” she said.


“To see the joy on their face, there is nothing like conquering an obstacle for the first time. And the improvement from the training session to the competition was already huge.


“What I see for the future with the obstacle discipline added is a lot more interest. Not just from the viewership, because it’s so exciting to watch side-by-side racing, but also a lot more interest from obstacle athletes.


“It’s a discipline that anyone can try. It’s a lot cheaper than equestrian to try and to train, and it’s also a lot of fun. I think we’re going to get a lot of obstacle athletes wanting to try modern mentathlon as well.”


Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) president Dr Klaus Schormann echoed the comments.


“It’s not just a simple replacement of one discipline for another,” he said.


“Obstacle discipline will transform modern pentathlon into a TV-friendly, multi-sport with proven appeal to younger fans and commercial partners around the world.


“The UIPM athletes committee have been central to the process and several members led by example on the obstacle course over the past two days.”


Dr Schormann’s comments on it being appealing to “younger fans and commercial partners” shows that focus on mature-age competitors seem to be less palatable, and with many riders competing in equestrian at the other end of the age scale (Andrew Hoy is 63, Mary Hanna 67) one wonders if equestrian at the Olympics is safe when comments like that are made.

Equestrian doesn’t help its own image. Outside the “dyed in the wool” publications, no effort is made to promote personalities or events, and then there’s a general sulk when there’s no mainstream coverage, or if a paper shows a spectacular cross-country fall.

The only time equestrian has had wide coverage is when Jamie Kermond was suspended for failing a drug test. It's a self-help situation and up to those involved. They need to constantly make local and mainstream newspapers and TV stations aware of events, wins and good stories.


The old saying “squeaky wheels get the grease” is true.


And if the grease isn’t used often and thickly, the very expensive sport of equestrian might go the same way as the showjumping phase in the pentathlon.


ABOVE: The ride that spelt the end for showjumping in modern pentathlon. Footage: BBC