Joe Choong: Olympic modern pentathlon champion fears changes could end sport

Modern pentathlon Olympic champion Joe Choong competes in show jumping
Joe Choong completes the showjumping discipline in Tokyo before winning modern pentathlon Olympic gold

Olympic modern pentathlon champion Joe Choong fears for the future of the sport after the governing body announced it is to drop showjumping from the multi-discipline event.

The modern pentathlon first featured in the 1912 Olympics, but changes approved last week would see the removal of the equestrian section following the 2024 Paris Games.

Choong, who won gold in Tokyo, is worried that without its history, the sport might soon cease to exist.

“It is such a historic sport and without the riding we lose all of that history, and then what do we become?” he told BBC Points West.

The modern pentathlon features cross-country running, freestyle swimming, fencing, pistol shooting and showjumping.

The 26-year-old Choong added: “We’ve already had a foot out the door for the last few cycles and I’m really worried that this could be a trap we fall into – and this could be the end of the sport itself.”

A German coach was thrown out of the Tokyo Olympics after punching a horse that refused to jump, ruining the chances of its rider.

Choong agreed changes need to be made to the sport, but accused the International Modern Pentathlon Union [UIPM] of making the decision “behind closed doors”, without consulting the athletes.

He said: “Horse riding 100% has a place in modern pentathlon. As athletes we know that there were problems and we want to change them, we just want to be given the chance to go to the UIPM and speak to them and present these ideas.

“The UIPM just turned a blind eye and now, having done nothing for 20 years, they realise we have a big problem and they think the easiest way to solve it is to remove it completely.”

Choong, who trains in Bath, is one of more than 650 athletes to have signed a letter of no confidenceexternal-link in the governing body, calling for a change in leadership. Elsewhere, almost 6,000 people have signed a petitionexternal-link to “save” the sport.

“I haven’t spoken to a single athlete, retired or current, that actually supports this decision from around the world,” he said.

The governing body is due to consult with athletes about the changes in a call on 12 November.

“The fact that they’re now saying ‘oh, we’ll listen’ is just insulting. It’s a bit too late and I’m not sure whether it’s sincere in their proposal.”

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