August 18, 2021
The current format does not do athletes or animals justice. Replacing showjumping with climbing would be a solution
Cruel and random modern pentathlon should replace horses with climbing
Imagine training for countless hours for many years to reach the Olympics in rowing. You’re slotted into the pairs event. One hitch – your partner will be determined by random draw. You look over and see one of your rivals paired up with a world champion. Your partner, on the other hand, isn’t sure which end of the oar goes in the water.Perhaps the equestrian phase of the modern pentathlon, in which athletes are assigned mounts by draw from a pool of horses, isn’t quite so extreme. The horses should all be able to jump over things, at least, so organizers aren’t just borrowing animals from any family that likes to ride around a bit. They just haven’t had much time to bond with the athletes who are randomly assigned to them after they’ve finished fencing and swimming.But the disparity in allocated horses is vivid. In 2008, young American pentathlete Margaux Isaksen kissed her horse after a solid ride in Beijing. In Tokyo, coach Kim Raisner punched a horse that had brought German athlete Annika Schleu to tears as battled to control the animal, knowing she was about to fall from first to 31st.It wasn’t quite Mongo in Blazing Saddles, but the whipping and punching were certainly enough to make Peta call for modern pentathlon to leave things up to the humans rather than bringing in animals who never signed up for this.Even without the animal-rights aspects, show jumping is an odd fit for a multidisciplinary test of athletic prowess. Schleu is perfectly capable of riding other horses, as she has shown in a stellar international career. She had a nearly perfect ride when she took silver in the 2018 modern pentathlon world championships and again a few months ago when she finished fourth in this year’s worlds. But in the Olympics, she was stuck with a horse who was having none of it, and her medal hopes went down the drain.
Related: German modern pentathlon coach thrown out of Olympics for punching horse
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