Athletes have been invited to participate in the third test of the controversial new 90-minute modern pentathlon format proposed for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
The official four-day test event is due to take place in Budapest from April 22 to 25, and the International Modern Pentathlon Union’s (UIPM) has asked National Federations to send as many athletes as possible in the context of this year's Olympic Games and continuing COVID-19 restrictions.
The UIPM Executive Board recently approved plans to pack all five disciplines into 90 minutes, with an elimination system designed to reduce the length of the competition.
The new format involves the equestrian leg lasting 20 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of fencing, 10 minutes of swimming and 15 minutes for the laser run - with breaks between events.
A total of 36 athletes would compete in each competition, with only 12 advancing to the final laser run.
UIPM President Klaus Schormann claims the changes can have a "transformative effect" on the profile and popularity of the sport which was first introduced into the Olympic Games at Stockholm 1912.
But the 90-minute format is facing criticism from some competitors, with Russian Uliana Batashova, winner of gold and silver medals at the last two World Cups in Cairo, notably accusing UIPM of deciding to "kill our sport".
Last November Ukraine’s Rio 2016 silver medallist Pavlo Tymoshchenko spoke out on social media saying the changes will create "another wave of confusion" and make the sport "even more incomprehensible", although he accepted some changes were "needed".
Tymoshchenko admitted reducing the number of competitors had "several attractive qualities" as well as "several drawbacks".
Numerous athletes protested when two major changes were made to the modern pentathlon format between the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, when lasers were substituted for air pistols in the shooting and then the shooting and running disciplines were merged into a concluding "laser run".
The scheduling of the third test event - following tests undertaken last September in Budapest and Cairo - is one of the recommendations set out by the dedicated taskforce appointed by the UIPM Executive Board in December 2020.
According to the UIPM, the establishment of the taskforce "followed positive feedback from the International Olympic Committee about the new format".
The taskforce, led by Schormann, was charged with finalising the rules of the format based on further evaluation and testing, with a view to presenting a set of competition rules to the UIPM 2021 Congress.
"The impending event in Budapest will provide ideal the testing ground for sports operations, media/TV operations and logistics, as well as the on-site survey that will enable athletes to provide feedback," the UIPM continued.
"The competition will comprise three stages.
"In both the women’s and men’s categories, 36 athletes will compete first in a Fencing Ranking Round, with points going forward to two semi-finals, each containing 18 athletes.
"Eighteen athletes will proceed to the Women’s Final with the other 18 eliminated.
"The men’s final, however, will include only 12 athletes, enabling both options to be assessed.
"Different scoring models will also be explored for men and women, including marginal distinctions in the number of riding obstacles, the value of a touch in the fencing ranking round and the number of laps in the laser run.
"A report will be presented to the task force within five days of the end of the competition (April 30), with the task force then meeting on May 5 to determine recommendations for consideration by the UIPM Executive Board."