Yasser  Hefny

As athletes, we are always trying to improve. We look at what we can control and how we can refine or adjust to give ourselves the maximum chance of success. 

We must drive this. We cannot sit back and wait for others to overtake us.

At the International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM) 2022 Congress on 12 November, the member nations did exactly that as they voted to take control of our sport’s future.

After a long and consultative process of determining the best 5th discipline for modern pentathlon, 83 per cent of the member nations voted in favour of obstacle. 

This was a historic moment for our sport.

The UIPM will now propose for inclusion in the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games a new modern pentathlon which honours our sport's incredible history while offering exciting opportunities for our athletes and a new generation of fans.

The inclusion of obstacle in modern pentathlon will bring so much to our sport.

It will open the sport to new nations across the five continents, expanding the representation of athletes at our events. 

It will also diversify our medal tables. With obstacle now in the mix, the picture changes for all the nations who have exceled in laser run or biathle/triathle but have found horse riding a barrier to success.

Many test events were conducted before obstacle was adopted by UIPM ©UIPM
Many test events were conducted before obstacle was adopted by UIPM ©UIPM

In the years to come, the number of competition organisers will increase dramatically as more and more nations are able to fulfil the requirements needed to host this new-look modern pentathlon. And this will also help to increase participation.

Besides growing the number of participants in modern pentathlon, obstacle can increase young people’s participation in sport generally. 

I have memories as a kid of creating obstacle courses. It is an activity which comes naturally to all young people and is enjoyed in homes, playgrounds and parks around the world. Parents see the benefit. 

And by formalising what is already so widely practised, obstacle can become a foundation for sport and physical activity in young kids, in the same way as athletics, gymnastics and swimming.

Obstacle provides an opportunity for modern pentathlon to tap into entertainment and mass participation markets.  

It opens so many doors and gives us endless possibilities. For example, in the future I would love to see a week-long youth festival of modern pentathlon with mixed combinations of disciplines, something that works for laser run specialists and obstacle specialists and brings everyone together.

The most important thing for the future of modern pentathlon is not just to survive but to transform into one of the leading sports in the Olympic Games. 

To do that we have to be a driver not a passenger of change.

We all know the numbers who watch Ninja Warrior and other obstacle races worldwide. 

We know how popular it is. More than 1 billion people watch obstacle broadcasts and more than 160 countries televise Ninja Warrior or the original SASUKE

This is our opportunity to tap into bigger markets and newer markets outside of the traditional modern pentathlon strongholds. 

It is our opportunity to engage athletes from all these nations who otherwise would not be a part of our sport.

The online UIPM Congress last month featured a key vote on the sport's fifth discipline ©UIPM
The online UIPM Congress last month featured a key vote on the sport's fifth discipline ©UIPM

I know that change is not easy.

As chair of the UIPM Athletes Committee, it is my responsibility to listen to our athletes and represent the views of the majority.

I have heard how difficult it has been for many of my fellow athletes to come to terms with the changes which have been made, especially the replacement of riding with obstacle.

I empathise with them and I applaud those who are currently training for Paris 2024 for sticking to their task while continuing to adapt.

But the more I hear from all those athletes who support the change, the more I see the young athletes who will be given opportunities that those of my generation never had the chance to experience. 

The more I learn about the potential of obstacle to transform our sport, the more I am convinced it is the right decision.

With the changes that have been made and that have been approved by the UIPM Congress, modern pentathlon is no longer a passenger. 

It is the driver; driving forward change which will benefit athletes for generations to come.