Modern pentathlon is at risk of forever losing its place on the Olympic Games program after Paris 2024, having been excluded from the initial program for Los Angeles 2028.
Modern pentathlon was created specifically by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics. De Coubertin believed that this event, above all others, would produce ‘the ideal, complete athlete’.
The sport has always comprised the five disciplines of running, shooting, fencing, swimming and horse-riding. However, investment in these disciplines by the international governing body, the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), has been uneven. Lack of investment and attention to the riding discipline over many years culminated in the regrettable scenes witnessed at Tokyo 2020.
The UIPM leadership intend to replace the riding discipline with obstacle course racing, and will be putting the matter to the vote of national federations at the UIPM Congress on 12-13 November. But questions have been asked and concerns raised about the process by which this new ‘fifth discipline’ was selected, and athletes around the world have voiced their protests at the proposed change. Modern Pentathlon Australia (MPA) surveyed the Australian pentathlon community – the overwhelming majority of current athletes told us they wanted to keep riding and did not want obstacle course racing.
UIPM President Klaus Schormann is fond of quoting IOC President Thomas Bach, who said, ‘Change, or be changed’. Yet there has been very little change in the UIPM leadership for the last three decades. President Schormann has been in his current role for nearly 30 years and was a Vice-President for 4 years before that. Other members of the executive board have held similarly long tenure. Long terms of office are not consistent with contemporary governance standards, and are not conducive to the flow of new ideas and fresh energy.
We thank President Schormann for the contribution he has made to the sport over many years, but the change we need now is a change of leadership.
MPA is proud to nominate Alex Watson (OLY) to stand for the role of UIPM President, and to support his efforts to lead the changes we believe are necessary for modern pentathlon to regain its place on the LA28 Olympic Games program, keep the dreams of our athletes alive, and regain the trust and engagement of the coaches, officials and volunteers who make it all possible.