Commentator and broadcaster Adam Cromarty, who owns production company Impact Media and covers the sport all over the world alongside his work as a level three judge, shares his thoughts of the new Olympic showjumping format and reflects on the modern pentathlon
But as the dust settles, and our rather full glass-recycling bins are emptied, many people will be reflecting on the new format that was forced on our sport. The biggest shift saw a reduction in the teams from four to three members, with no drop scores. The competition structure was also adapted.
Not having a drop score was supposed to make the sport more understandable and attractive to new audiences.
An additional, supposed benefit to reducing team numbers was the opening up of more spaces, so that other nations could be represented. I was skeptical when this was announced and now I’m convinced it’s detrimental to the sport, with a risk of diluting the level of competition.
The drop-score system took into account that there are two hearts on course and that either can have a bad day at the office. If an athlete had to ride a circle on-course or even retire, the option was there, and it would simply put additional pressure on the remaining members. Now the pressure is there from the start.
If you surrender in the ring due to your horse not being quite right, then the dream is essentially over. Even the most holistic of riders will have that in the back of their minds.
There seems to be a fascination with bringing us in line with other sports; I’m just not sure why. If a javelin breaks or the stitching comes undone on a boxing glove, you can change it mid-competition. We can never align with this. The reserve system now allows for changes, but it felt a bit like football’s transfer window. It was hard to keep up.
In the wisdom of freshening things up, the new team format is now identical to the individual format. I’m not sure that makes things more interesting. I may be a lone voice, but I also don’t think it’s as fair as having the scores carry forward in the team competition.
With my media and broadcast background, I’m always ready to applaud any initiative that opens up showjumping to a wider audience. We clearly need to work with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ensure our sport is not dropped from the Olympics. I’m just not sure that the answer is changing the competition format, and then presenting the sport in exactly the same way and selling it as something fresh.
Improving the modern pentathlon picture
THE showjumping phase of the modern pentathlon was more hide-behind-a-cushion than edge-of-your-seat.
There were some talented riders in the field and Team GB did well, but, on the whole, what we witnessed reflects badly on equestrianism.
Sadly, I don’t think a mainstream audience necessarily distinguishes between this and pure showjumping. If modern pentathlon wants to use our sport, surely they need to continue to fall in line with our rules, too.
In any FEI showjumping competition, after a fall, an athlete is eliminated and now must be given clearance to ride in future from the medics. With the new format, it would essentially mean game over for the team. In modern pentathlon, they can get back on board and have another go. Clearly, the two sports don’t talk.
At the moment, they have 20 minutes to get to know the horse and then have to jump a 1.20m course. By reducing the height down to below a metre, it would surely improve the whole picture.
The Olympics has always found a way to coalesce those involved with any sport and even to introduce us to new ones, although I’m not going to buy a skateboard quite yet. It’s vital for showjumping that we are given the chance to use the opportunity as a showcase.
I can live with the new format, but the drop-score system needs to return before we are saying bonjour to Paris in 2024.
- This exclusive column will also be available to read in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 19 August
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