Another obstacle test event is scheduled at the Junior World Championships this week ©UIPM/Augustas Didžgalvis

International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM) secretary general Shiny Fang has backed a new fifth discipline to make the sport more accessible and likened it to the adoption of laser-run.

Writing in a pre-Congress message, Fang argued the UIPM cannot let modern pentathlon "belong only to rich countries with an established equestrian scene" and needs to do more to engage with countries where the sport is not widely practiced. 

Obstacle racing, which has been put forward as the new fifth discipline and is being tested under a partnership between the UIPM and World Obstacle, can do that, it is claimed.

"Our mission as a global governing body is to develop our sport worldwide, and to bring the sport to all corners of the planet and to all social classes of people," the secretary general said.

"Hard as it is to say goodbye to horses, this should not be an elite pastime - it needs to be an accessible, non-discriminatory sport or we will walk a narrow path until the sport disappears."

Fang drew a parallel with the combining of the running and shooting disciplines - which has been the case since 2009 - and claimed that is "a big part of the reason" the UIPM now boasts having 129 National Federations, plus two prospective members. 

"And the hard fact is that UIPM laser-run events have reached around 100 countries, while the full modern pentathlon has only reached half of them", Fang wrote.

Replacing riding will make modern pentathlon more accessible in the same way that combining shooting and running has, according to Shiny Fang ©Getty Images
Replacing riding will make modern pentathlon more accessible in the same way that combining shooting and running has, according to Shiny Fang ©Getty Images

"Some might argue that laser shooting is still shooting, but obstacle discipline is not riding. 

"Well, very true, and once again, if keeping riding with improved riding ability and horse and athlete welfare could solve our fundamental problem, we would never give up trying. 

"But it can't."

The UIPM resolved to replace riding in the wake of a horse abuse scandal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

German coach Kim Raisner was sent home in disgrace after punching the horse Saint Boy when it refused to jump for Annika Schleu, who led the competition at the time.

The process to replace riding has been highly divisive, however, with the campaign group Pentathlon United and dozens of athletes - including reigning Olympic champions Kate French and Joe Choong from Britain - arguing that the equestrian discipline should be reformed rather than replaced.

Critics say the process to replace riding has lacked transparency and have suggested non-active National Federations are being used as surrogates to demonstrate support for replacing riding.

There were 81 votes cast during last year's remote Congress when the UIPM Executive Board's decision to axe riding was put up for ratification.

Sixty-six delegates voted in favour with 15 against, plus three abstentions.

The decision to replace riding has proved divisive ©Getty Images
The decision to replace riding has proved divisive ©Getty Images

This year's Congress, where the obstacle discipline is expected to be proposed as the new fifth discipline, is also to be held online rather than in Guatemala as first planned.

All six continental modern pentathlon bodies have welcomed that decision after the UIPM cited difficulties in getting to the city of Antigua - namely COVID-19 restrictions and prohibitive costs - for the change, although some have complained.

The Modern Pentathlon Association of Denmark, a noted critic of the move to replace riding, said moving the Congress online represented an "absurd situation" and claimed that poor translations, weak sound quality, no active helpline and "zero overview over the voting process" had undermined last year's Congress.

The year's UIPM Congress is set for November 12 and 13.

Modern pentathlon has been left off the provisional programme for Los Angeles 2028, although the International Olympic Committee says there is a "pathway" for its reinstatement should certain criteria be met.