- Modern pentathlon is trying steeplechase as its new fifth sport after abandoning show jumping.
- Athletes have accused the sport’s governing body of not involving them in the decision, a claim it denies.
- “Everyone had a chance to make their suggestions,” James Cook told Insider.
Modern pentathlon’s governing body, the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), has denied accusations that it made the decision to select hurdling as its new fifth sport behind closed doors.
The UIPM announced in May that it would trial steeplechase as a replacement for show jumping after announcing that the equestrian discipline would be phased out after the Paris 2024 Olympics.
The decision was made by a “working group” of 21 people – including pentathletes and media experts – combined with input from the sport’s various committees and national federations, UIPM said.
Speaking to Insider at the time, reigning men’s Olympian Joseph Chung accused the governing body of using the task force as a “front”.
Speaking to Insider again last month, Choong, as well as US pentathletes Heidi Hendrick and Avery Niemann – all of whom are part of Pentathlon United, a group campaigning to stay in modern pentathlon – claimed that they and other athletes were not consulted on the change.
“The whole process has shocked me at the way athletes have so little importance in the decision-making processes in sports,” Choong said. “It is clear that the vast majority of active athletes do not want these changes, and yet they have been imposed anyway.”
James Cook, a UIPM athlete representative who was one of four Olympic pentathletes on the task force, told Insider that his colleagues’ claims are false.
“Everyone had a chance to make their suggestions,” he said. “Each national federation, I think there are 131, had the opportunity to talk to each other and then submit their proposals.
“The technical committee, which consists of referees, judges, also had the opportunity to submit their proposals, as did the coaching committee and the athletes’ committee.
“We [the fifth-discipline working group] talked to the athlete representatives from individual nations and asked them to talk to their athletes, and then we created an athlete focus group that was a mix of demographics.
“We had members who had strong views about horse riding in that focus group and we also had athletes who had strong views against it.
“I think in terms of that process we did a very, very good job.”
The President of UIPM Dr. Klaus Schormann also rejects the idea that athletes were not involved in the selection process of the new fifth sport of modern pentathlon.
“The voice of the athletes was heard from the first moment,” he told Insider. “The members of the athlete committee are elected by all the athletes from around the world and on all the continents separately, so there is one voice for Asia, one voice for the Americas, and so on.”
“The athletes’ committee is at every match and has meetings, talks to the athletes,” he added. “We are very democratically active.”