‘Distressing Scenes’ At Tokyo Olympics Force Governing Body To Review Equestrian Riding Event

Published 08/11/2021, 11:32 AM EDT
Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Modern Pentathlon – Women’s Riding – Tokyo Stadium – Tokyo, Japan – August 6, 2021. Annika Schleu of Germany reacts before being eliminated REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado


Modern pentathlon Annika Schlue was seen struggling to control Saint Boy, her horse, during the equestrian riding event on August 6, 2021.

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The German has won the gold medal of the relay event at the 2012 World Championships and 2017 World Championships. She has also competed in three Olympic Games,  26th in the year 2012 and in 4th place in Rio Olympics, 2016.

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Modern Pentathlon – Women’s Riding – Tokyo Stadium – Tokyo, Japan – August 6, 2021. Annika Schleu of Germany in action REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

What happened at the riding event?

Athletes are provided with only 20 minutes to form a bond with the horses. However, the minute Annika stepped into the ring, she had tears in her eyes, hustling to keep up with the horse. In spite of leading the field, she had a tough time making the horse perform during the show-jumping event on Friday.

During the ongoing battle, her German coach, Kim Raisner, took to aggressive acts of punching the horse. The authorities henceforth decided to kick her out of the Olympics. Consequently, the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) said that the event created “distress both inside and outside the global UIPM Sports community.” Moving forward with the matter, UIPM will thus be giving out a review into the equestrian event at the games.

UIPM’s comments on the distressing riding event

Not only will UIPM conduct a full review of the riding discipline of the women’s modern pentathlon at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, it will also reinforce the importance of horse welfare and athlete safety across the entire global competition structure.

“Although no athlete or horse was physically injured on August 6, the best possible safeguards must be in place to minimize risk in future.

The statement offered by UIPM recognized the fact that other riders also had a similar experience during this event. A number of horses refused to take a leap, making it challenging for the rider, as it was indeed difficult for them to get hold of the animal.

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Are the rules of the game faulty?

The media was flooded with news about this event. Hence, UIPM said that “riding is an integral part of the modern pentathlon. The ability to control a horse in a competitive situation is part of the pentathlon toolkit. The Olympic champion must prove they can swim, fence, ride, shoot and run to a high level to earn the coveted gold medal.

“While the number of refusals and falls on August 6 was slightly above average, the Olympic Games is designed as the most challenging of all competitions. That said, UIPM has a duty of care to all participants in the competitions it oversees; this includes the Olympic Games and it includes horses”. 

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Furthermore, the fact that athletes get only a time period of 20 minutes makes it impossible for the athlete to know the animal better. Apparently, the head of Germany’s Olympics also called out for an urgent meeting with respect to the rules.

Nevertheless, the UPIM has certain plans to put into practice in order to ameliorate the situation. Let’s see what the report entails!

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Divya Chaturvedi

99 articles

Divya Chaturvedi is an Olympic Athletics author at EssentiallySports, currently pursuing her Under Graduate degree in Psychology from the University of Delhi. She's also an internationally recognized athlete, specializing in Shot Put and Discus, representing India at the International Children's Games held in Australia has been one of the biggest feats in her endeavor so far. Having participated in The Road to Wimbledon and representing the state several times, she bagged a number of titles for the same.

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