A few weeks ago we highlighted the Olympic sport of modern pentathlon, pointing out the fact that things didn’t go so smoothly during the equestrian phase in Beijing. Then, we saw this scary video from London.
The problem stems, chiefly, from the fact that the competitors are asked to ride an unfamiliar horse over a substantial, 3’9″ show jumping course with only a brief warm-up in which to get to know one another. An article in Saturday’s New York Times likened the process to “speed-dating” and noted the potentially dangerous consequences on not meshing with your horse. One U.S. team member was quoted as saying, “Every single time I’ve been in a pentathlon, something unfortunate has happened.”
According to pentathalon.org, “Athletes compete on horses provided by the organizers, which are selected from a random draw. For warm-up and preparation purposes, athletes are allowed to ride their allocated horse for 20 minutes and to have up to 5 trial jumps in the warm-up arena provided.”
Does pentathlon still have a place in the Olympics? Is it a relevant test of skill or an outdated, overly dangerous deathtrap?