UIPM vice president calls for modern pentathlon athletes to embrace change and accept future without riding

Joël Bouzou believes the time has come for modern pentathlon to change their reputation as an elite and privileged sport

A rider with her horse walk next to a no riding zone sign during a news conference about keeping horse riding in the modern pentathlon program in Budapest, Hungary, November 12, 2021. REUTERS / Marton Monus
A rider with her horse walk next to a no riding zone sign during a news conference about keeping horse riding in the modern pentathlon program in Budapest, Hungary, November 12, 2021. REUTERS / Marton Monus

The vice-president of the Union de Internationale Moderne (UIPM) Joël Bouzou is calling on all modern pentathletes to embrace change, specifically “a future without riding.”

In a letter Bouzou addressed the recent attacks on the UIPM over their decision to replace horse riding with a discipline yet to be determined.

“Horse riding has become a hindrance to our goals of global development. Replacing it will create a more level playing field. It’s time to erase our reputation as a sport for high society and the elite – before it’s too late,” Bouzou said in the letter.

He further added, “There is nothing modern about a modern pentathlon that forever stays the same.”

FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Modern Pentathlon - Men's Riding - Tokyo Stadium - Tokyo, Japan - August 7, 2021. Jung Jin-Hwa of South Korea in action REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Modern Pentathlon - Men's Riding - Tokyo Stadium - Tokyo, Japan - August 7, 2021. Jung Jin-Hwa of South Korea in action REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

The decision to replace horse riding after the Paris 2024 Games has not been met with universal approval. The athlete group Pentathlon United, along with the backing of several national federations, has called for the UIPM to reverse the decision and for president Klaus Schormann to resign.

“The UIPM will rip up 109 years of history and propose an incomplete modern pentathlon to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in the hopes it might be included for Los Angeles 2028,” said Kate Allenby, spokesperson for Pentathlon United. “This reckless approach threatens to destroy pentathletes’ dreams everywhere.”

Over 700 modern pentathletes have declared no confidence in Schormann and the rest of the UIPM Executive Board.

FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Modern Pentathlon - Women's Riding - Tokyo Stadium - Tokyo, Japan - August 6, 2021. Annika Schleu of Germany in action REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Modern Pentathlon - Women's Riding - Tokyo Stadium - Tokyo, Japan - August 6, 2021. Annika Schleu of Germany in action REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado/File Photo

The UIPM told members of their decision to replace horse riding on November 5, following the outcry of an incident last summer during the Tokyo Games when a German coach punched a horse that refused to jump over a fence.

Bouzou said the Tokyo incident was not the only factor in the UIPM’s decision and in fact removing horse riding as been a decision years in the making.

“We must try and embrace the future and acknowledge the pace of change. We cannot know what it will mean to be the complete athlete 30 or 40 years from now,” Bouzou said. “Too often the best performers have been eliminated by an unfair and random factor. A new modern pentathlon without riding will create a more level playing field. The privilege of riding is denied to the majority and that’s why we must embrace a future without riding.”

Bouzou competed in four Olympic Games for France and won a bronze medal in 1984 in Los Angeles. He also won the World Championships in 1987.

The UIPM has encouraged an open dialogue on the controversial decision and held a virtual forum for all modern pentathletes earlier in November.

Allenby, herself a bronze medalist at the 2000 Sydney Games, said reform does not translate to removal.

“It’s about reforming modern pentathlon, not deforming and tinkering with it, or making it look unattractive.

The UIPM is expected to announce the replacement discipline sometime in 2022.

KEEP READING