It was a big two days this week for the modern pentathlon in Egypt. The 71 Congress of the International Modern Pentathlon Federation (UIPM) saw three Egyptian officials elected as members in the international body by the General Assembly who met virtually on 27 and 28 November.
President of the Egyptian Modern Pentathlon Federation (EMPF) Sherif Al-Erian was elected UIPM vice president, while Mohamed Hamdi Gad joined the UIPM Business Affairs Committee. Ali Assem, director of competitions at the EMPF, was elected a member of the UIPM Technical Committee.
The three join two other Egyptians, Aya Medani, a member of the UIPM Athletes Committee, and Mohamed Yehia, a member of the UIPM Medical Committee. Medani, a former star pentathlete, recently won the Mohamed Bin Rashed (MBR) Award for Best Arab Sports Official.
The UIPM sent congratulations to the newly elected officials who were chosen according to the UIPM, because of their dedication and hard work in endorsing the modern pentathlon in Egypt and the rest of Africa. Klaus Shormann, who keeps his seat as UIPM president, has repeatedly said that the EMPF was always a partner of UIPM in its success and the modern pentathlon in general.
In 2021, Egypt hosted three World Pentathlon Championships despite the challenges of Covid-19: the seniors World Championship in Cairo, the Juniors World Championship and the Youth World Championship in Alexandria, all receiving glowing reviews.
Al-Erian took to his Facebook account to thank the members of the General Assembly for their vote of confidence in him as vice-president of UIPM. “Thanks to all the nations that supported me in the UIPM Elective General Assembly 2021. Winning the Vice-Presidency seat of the UIPM is an honour and I hope to be up to the challenge,” he said.
Al-Erian is also secretary-general of the Egyptian National Olympic Committee and sports director at the American University in Cairo.
On the other hand, the UIPM has received official letters of support from national federations and their leaders in response to the executive board’s decision to open consultations on introducing a fifth discipline in the modern pentathlon.
According to the UIPM, the support, expressed with a willingness to work together as a global UIPM sports community to create new opportunities for future generations, came in the first week of the consultation process.
The riding discipline attracted criticism during the 2020 Summer Olympics after multiple athletes in the women’s event struggled to control their randomly assigned horses. This culminated in the German team’s coach, Kim Raisner, being removed from the event after allegedly striking a horse with her fist. UIPM officials have chosen to remove the horse riding portion of the event; the replacement sport has yet to be announced. They hope to at least keep the modern pentathlon in the Olympic programme.
The UIPM official website stated that the wave of support demonstrates that the difficult decision to seek an alternative to the riding discipline – and thereby launch a more globally accessible and sustainable era for the modern pentathlon after the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, without discrimination for any country or region or social class – has been accepted by many UIPM national federations not only as a necessary step but a positive development opportunity for the sport. UIPM also noted once again the concerns raised following the executive board’s decision to assess alternative disciplines to riding for the Olympic Games in Los Angeles 2028.
The board said it would like to reiterate that the decision was not taken lightly. Besides the recommendations of the UIPM Innovation Commission, the board also took into account a series of IOC evaluation and selection criteria that will determine the ranking of the sports and which sports are on the programme for LA 2028, and the urgent obligation to submit a proposal to the International Olympic Committee one week before the Olympic Programme Commission meeting scheduled for Wednesday 1 December.
The modern pentathlon comprises five events: fencing, freestyle swimming, show jumping and a final combined event of pistol shooting and cross country running. This last event is now referred to as the laser-run since it alternates four legs of laser pistol shooting followed by an 800 m run (for 3,200 m in total).
The sport has been a core sport of the Olympic Games since 1912 despite several attempts to remove it. A world championship for modern pentathlon has been held annually since 1949.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 2 December, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.