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Olympic sport to talk to athletes about change in the midst of anger

GENEVA (AP) – Amid a bitter rift among athletes over the removal of horse riding from the Olympic event of modern pentathlon, the governing body of the sport invited them for talks this week on Monday.

Monaco-based UIPM said it will host a video call on Friday to advise athletes on which sport will replace horse riding after a horse abuse incident at the Tokyo Olympics.

A horse that refused to compete in jumping for the German leader in the women’s competition was hit by a team trainer who was ordered to take animal welfare classes.

The UIPM has since created confusion for athletes on how to handle the process of changing one of the most traditional Olympic sports in time for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

The decision of the UIPM board to remove riding was leaked last week and then declined before confirmation, with a letter to the athletes confirming that “we know this information is surprising and even shocking to you will be”.

UIPM said their place in the Olympics after the 2024 Paris Games was not a given, hinting at pressure from the IOC to change the sport.

Speculations that cycling would replace cycling were denied on Sunday by long-time UIPM President Klaus Schormann in a German television program. Schormann said the choice of the alternative sport had already been made and it was not about cycling, but he could not yet reveal what it was.

The UIPM withdrew those comments on Monday, claiming media reports were “inaccurate” and that no decision was made without first involving the athletes.

“The consultation process is open and I want to make it clear that no decision has yet been made on the fifth discipline,” said Schormann in a UIPM statement.

The board of directors is expected to attend a congress on 27.-28. November decide. After 28 years as UIPM boss, Schormann is running for re-election in the same meeting without opposing candidates.

Nevertheless, hundreds of athletes – including both gold medalists from Tokyo – signed a letter of no confidence in the Federal President and his board of directors in the past week, calling on them to resign.

The modern pentathlon has a special place in Olympic lore. It was developed by the founder of the modern games, Pierre de Coubertin, as a test for a complete all-round athlete. It was first played at the Olympic Games in Stockholm in 1912.

The traditional 5-day version of pistol shooting, fencing, swimming, horseback riding and running has been abolished. A one-day version in Tokyo with a combined running and shooting event still proved controversial as the athletes had to compete on a horse they had never ridden before.

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