Modern pentathlon’s new obstacle discipline includes monkey bars, tsunami wall

Modern Pentathlon - Olympics: Day 15
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Monkey bars and a tsunami wall could be coming to the Olympics.

Details for the new obstacle discipline of modern pentathlon were announced Tuesday.

The sport’s international governing body said last year that the horse riding discipline had to be removed to boost the chances of keeping modern pentathlon’s place in the Olympics beyond 2024.

The obstacle discipline, chosen from among 60 proposals, will replace horse riding in the Olympic modern pentathlon lineup starting with the 2028 Los Angeles Games, pending approval at a November congress. Star athletes have voiced disapproval, and modern pentathlon still must be added to the LA Olympic program.

The discipline that will debut with a test event June 27-28 in Turkey includes two to four athletes racing each other over a course up to 100 meters long with up to 10 obstacles. The list of obstacles in play:

Ascending steps
Rope swing
1.5-meter wall
Monkey bars
Offset steps
0.5-meter low crawl
Rings rig
Under-over-under-over
Wheels rig
Balance beam
Angled ladders
Finish ‘Tsunami’ curved wall

Modern pentathlon’s governing body called it “the biggest shakeup” since the sport made its Olympic debut in 1912.

Athletes will “run, walk, climb, crawl, slither, scramble or otherwise propel themselves to the finish line of a bespoke course,” according to a press release.

Modern pentathlon will be held at the 2024 Paris Games with horse riding, but it is not currently on the 2028 Los Angeles program. It could still be added for 2028.

“They must demonstrate a significant reduction in cost and complexity and improvements across the areas for safety, accessibility, universality, appeal for youth and general public,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in December.

It has been reported that horse riding was encouraged to be replaced after an incident of horse abuse at the Tokyo Olympics — a German coach hit a horse that refused to jump — but Bach did not mention that in his public comments about the event’s Olympic future.

Brits Joe Choong and Kate French, who won the gold medals in Tokyo, are among the modern pentathletes who have spoken out against the removal of horse riding.

The other modern pentathlon events are fencing, swimming and a combined running and shooting event. Modern pentathlon was created by the founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, and has roots in the duties required of a soldier from the late 19th century.

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Modern pentathlon to try out obstacle discipline to replace horse riding

Modern Pentathlon Obstacle Course Racing
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Modern pentathlon, an Olympic sport since 1912, will try out an unspecified obstacle event as one of its five disciplines to replace horse riding as it bids to remain in the Games.

UIPM, the sport’s international governing body, said Monday that it will test two variations of an “obstacle” discipline after the World Cup Final in late June.

It has been reported that the obstacle discipline is a form of obstacle course racing, but UIPM did not provide specifics when asked Monday.

The obstacle disciplines led over 60 proposals to replace horse riding, which UIPM said last year had to be removed to boost the chances of keeping modern pentathlon’s place in the Olympics.

Modern pentathlon will be held at the 2024 Paris Games but is not currently on the 2028 Los Angeles program. It could still be added for 2028.

“They must demonstrate a significant reduction in cost and complexity and improvements across the areas for safety, accessibility, universality, appeal for youth and general public,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in December.

The other modern pentathlon events are fencing, swimming and a combined running and shooting event. Modern pentathlon was created by the founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, and has roots in the duties required of a soldier from the late 19th century.

Brits Joe Choong and Kate French swept the golds in Tokyo last year.

Choong and French are among the modern pentathletes who have spoken out against the removal of horse riding.

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LA 2028 Olympics: Skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing in; boxing, weightlifting, modern pentathlon out (for now)

Surfing - Olympics: Day 4
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Skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing, which made their Olympic debuts in Tokyo, are slated to remain on the program through the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

The IOC Executive Board announced Thursday the sports recommended for the initial program for the Los Angeles Games, to be confirmed by IOC members in February, listing 28 international federations.

For now, longtime Olympic sports boxing, weightlifting and modern pentathlon are not on the 2028 program, but there is a pathway for their inclusion. All three are on the 2024 Olympic program.

Boxing and weightlifting have been contested at every Olympics since 1920. Modern pentathlon has been at every Olympics since 1912.

IOC President Thomas Bach said the three sports’ international federations must address separate problem areas to the IOC Executive Board’s satisfaction. If so, they can be added to the 2028 Olympic program as early as 2023.

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” Bach said.

In June 2019, the IOC stripped AIBA of its Olympic recognition following an inquiry committee report into finance, governance, refereeing and judging. An investigation later found that 2016 Olympic medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

Bach said the International Weightlifting Federation must transition “towards compliance and effective change of culture.” Specifically, it must address the sport’s historical doping problems and “ensure the integrity, robustness and full independence of its anti-doping program.”

More than 60 weightlifters who competed between the 2008 and 2012 Olympics later failed drug tests or retests of old samples, including more than 30 original medalists.

Modern pentathlon is in a very different situation. Its federation must determine a replacement for horse riding as one of its five disciplines.

“They must demonstrate a significant reduction in cost and complexity and improvements across the areas for safety, accessibility, universality, appeal for youth and general public,” Bach said.

Last month, the International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM) said horse riding would be removed to boost the chances of keeping modern pentathlon’s place in the Olympics. A UIPM commission recommended that riding be replaced by a to-be-determined discipline that “enhances the popularity and credibility of modern pentathlon, while preserving its status as the ultimate physical and mental sporting challenge.”

Separately, the sport of equestrian’s place in the Olympics is not in danger.

LA 2028 can also propose adding sports solely for its edition of the Games. That’s how skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing made it to the Olympics for the first time in Tokyo, and now all three are slated to be held at three consecutive Olympics.

Baseball and softball, which were added for Tokyo at the organizers’ request after being voted out of the Olympics after 2008, will not be on the 2024 Paris program but are hoping to return for LA 2028.

“As we look at additional sport recommendations, we will continue to focus on sports that are relevant to Los Angeles, provide an incredible fan experience and contribute to the success of the Games,” LA 2028 chair Casey Wasserman said in a press release. “We want to build on tradition, while progressing the Olympic Games forward.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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