Is the standard of pentathlon jumping up to scratch?

  • Riders who lent their horses for the showjumping phase of the Olympic modern pentathlon (11-12 August) have questioned the standard of riding, which led to unedifying scenes at Greenwich.

    Images of Shearwater Oscar rearing and falling on South Korean athlete Hwang Woojin and Mexico’s Tamara Vega jumping the final part of the triple underneath her horse’s neck also prompted violent criticism on the H&H forum.

    One user described the showjumping as a “car crash”, while another called it “a disgraceful and disgusting exhibition“.

    Organisers spent more than two years looking for suitable mounts, after farcical scenes in Beijing where overfaced horses refused to jump.

    But in London, the horses did not appear to be the problem. Many pentathletes seemed to have had little experience jumping the 1.20m tracks found at the Olympics.

    Nigel Morland’s mare, Trinidad, was used in the men’s competition (11 August).

    She gave Hungarian Adam Marosi a clear round – which helped him to the bronze medal – but Mr Morland said he was not sure he would lend her again.

    “I am slightly ambivalent, having seen the standard of riding,” he said.

    The horse which reared and fell over backwards, Shearwater Oscar, was one of a number of horses provided by Dorset-based producer Jabeena Maslin.

    She told H&H that officials had ignored her request to use him for the ladies’ jumping.

    “I didn’t want a man on him and I saw it [the fall] coming before he went in the ring – he nearly pulled him over in the warm-up,” she added.

    But Joel Bouzou, secretary general of pentathlon’s governing body, the UIPM, said the standard of riding had improved.

    “We started a programme with the International Olympic Committee two years ago to improve the standard of riding – and it has worked,” he said.

    But Mr Bouzou said the issue of whether the fences should be lower than 1.20m will be debated at the sport’s annual conference, in October.

    This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (23 August 2012)

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