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Modern pentathlon will drop horse riding and is searching for a replacement

Germany's Annika Schleu, aboard Saint Boy, competes in the show jumping portion of the modern pentathlon at the Tokyo Olympics. (Tatyana Zenkovich/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Modern pentathlon is hoping to become more modern. The multi-discipline sport has been looking for ways to become more appealing to younger audiences. On Thursday, its governing body announced that it would drop horse riding from competitions by the 2028 Olympics and will begin looking for a replacement.

In an open letter posted on its website, the International Modern Pentathlon Union confirmed a change that had been rumored for days and asked its members to help pick the new discipline to go with fencing, swimming and a combination of running and shooting called laser run. The decision was made after a recent conference of UIPM leaders in Monaco.

Modern pentathlon has been facing criticism since the Tokyo Olympics, where Germany’s modern pentathlon coach, Kim Raisner, slapped a rider’s horse after the horse refused to jump a fence, drawing outrage around the world.

“We know that this information will be surprising and even shocking to you,” the UIPM said in the letter to its membership.

Then, in an apparent acknowledgment of the controversy, the letter went on to say the organization had been reviewing “the riding discipline” before adding, “But life within the Olympic movement changes fast.”

Modern pentathlon leaders have been working to make the sport more compatible with newer disciplines such as skateboarding and BMX biking that have been added in recent Olympics. Already, plans have been made to squeeze competitions into a 90-minute window that included horse riding for the 2024 Olympics, which is why horse riding won’t be removed until 2028.

Thursday’s letter listed a number of criteria for the replacement sport, saying the UIPM wants to find something that is “attractive and relevant to global youth and future generations” while also low-cost, with gender equity and “exciting and easily understandable for TV/digital audiences and all sports fans.”

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