The world’s best pentathlete says he’ll quit the sport if it ditches riding for cycling after the Olympic horse-punch scandal

  • Modern pentathletes are up in arms over reports that the sport will ditch its equestrian section.
  • The UIPM has reportedly voted to remove horse riding after a coach punched a horse at the Tokyo Olympics.

Modern pentathlon Olympic champion Joseph Choong has said he would quit the sport if its equestrian section was to be replaced with cycling.

Both The Guardian and Inside The Games reported on Tuesday that modern pentathlon’s governing body, the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), has voted to swap the disciplines in light of the Tokyo Olympics’ horse-punching saga.

German coach Kim Raisner was booted from the games after she struck Annika Schleu’s horse, Saint Boy, when it had refused to jump over a fence during the show-jumping round of the women’s event.

Raisner could also be heard urging Schleu, who was in tears, to “really hit” the horse.

The debacle prompted huge backlash from animal-rights groups and fans all across the world, with the UIPM launching an investigation and creating a working group of some of the sport’s greatest participants to try and ensure the incident cannot be repeated.

Following the reports that the governing body had decided to swap out horse riding for cycling, Great Britain’s Choong, who won gold in the men’s event in Tokyo, has said he would be forced to retire if the change happened.

“It has been a shock to me. It is not nice to hear,” Choong told Sportsmail. “If it changed to cycling, I wouldn’t be in the sport. It would not suit me at all. I am sure a lot of athletes would feel the same.

“I feel sorry for the juniors who have come through the sport and started their riding lessons only to have it changed so drastically.”

He added: “What makes pentathlon so unique is it tests a diverse range of sporting ability. You have the fitness of running and swimming, the technical element of shooting and fencing and then the ability to work with another animal in horse riding.

The “ability to work with another animal” was the main issue for many participants at the Tokyo Games, with a number of unruly horses causing several athletes in the female competition to struggle to even complete the riding portion of the event.

Schleu, alongside five other athletes, failed to register a single point in the discipline, with the German’s zero costing her a shot at gold.

“Removing horse riding, it just wouldn’t be the same sport. I personally don’t want to talk about pentathlon as a sport with a different five sports,” Choong said of the reported changes to how pentathlon is structured.

“I don’t want to grow up and have kids and then explain to them how I am an Olympic champion of a sport that doesn’t exist. That to me is not a nice idea.

“The sport was invented in 1912. I don’t think you can change the sport like that with so much history.”

Annika Schleu and Saint Boy.

Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Choong isn’t the only modern pentathlete to speak out against the proposed change.

Kate Allenby, who won bronze for Great Britain in 2000 at the Sydney Games, said removing horse riding from the sport would be a “disaster.”

“This needs talking about because it’s not modern pentathlon if it hasn’t got riding in it,” she said.

The UIPM told Insider that is was “untrue” that cycling would be replacing horse riding in the modern pentathlon, but said it was “not able to confirm or deny whether riding will be removed” from the sport.

It plans to make a formal statement on sport’s future on November 4.

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