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“Obstacle promises to ignite a passion for Modern Pentathlon in a new generation of athletes”

March 21, 2024

iSportConnect’s Taruka Srivastav spoke with Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) President Dr. Klaus Schormann on the upcoming Paris Olympics, launch of Obstacle and being at the helm of a sporting organisation for past 30 years.

You have been in this role for more than 30 years now. What has the journey been like? 

Leading one of the oldest Olympic sports for more than 30 years fills me with immense pride.  Guiding its constant evolution over the past three decades has been truly special. 

Since my initial election as UIPM Vice President for Marketing and Publications in 1988, followed by becoming UIPM President in 1993, I’ve been involved in the Union’s leadership for 35 of its 75 years. During this time, the number of National Federations has grown significantly, from 63 in 1993 to over 130 today. 

The outstanding teamwork within the UIPM Executive Board, Committees, Commissions, and working groups has been instrumental in transforming UIPM into a dynamic International Federation.  We remain committed to the Olympic Movement’s guidance, with a focus on both present and future generations. 

What are the challenges you had to overcome?

Over the past 30 years as President, the constant evolution of Modern Pentathlon has presented both motivation and its share of challenges. From the introduction of laser pistols at the first-ever Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, to the creation of a 90-minute format that will be a compelling showpiece featuring all five disciplines at the Olympic Games Paris 2024, we’ve embraced change, even when navigating the challenges of implementation.

However, the biggest milestone in the history of our sport came in October 2023, with the confirmation that Modern Pentathlon, including the new Obstacle discipline, would be featured on the programme of the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games. Securing this spot after discussions and considerations by the International Olympic Committee presented a significant challenge, but one that ultimately led us into a new era for the sport.

What are the expectations for Paris and then LA28?

With the Paris 2024 Games just over 100 days away, our Union is filled with energy and excitement. Paris 2024 represents the pinnacle event of the year for Modern Pentathlon. We are honoured to host our new 90-minute format at the iconic Palace of Versailles – a stunning location reflecting both the beauty and culture of France and its history.

In the home of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, we are all excited to give our Riding discipline the best possible-send off.  Our collaboration with the Paris 2028 Organising Committee has been exceptional, and I extend my deepest gratitude to their team for all their support and efforts.

As we close one incredible chapter with Riding in Paris, we’re thrilled to open a new one in Los Angeles 2028. The youthful, urban, and highly accessible sport of Obstacle promises to ignite a passion for Modern Pentathlon in a new generation of athletes. This milestone will propel our sport to new heights, attracting a new global audience of fans. 

How do you think the inclusion of Obstacle will make the sport more marketable?

This landmark decision will propel our sport into entirely new markets. Imagine the broadcast potential with a sport as globally popular as Ninja Warrior and SASUKE. Industry research shows there is a concerning trend among young people: 70% of 13–37-year-olds no longer prioritise watching sports live. They favour consuming short highlight reels on social media.  

Therefore, the idea of 30-second highlight clips of a head-to-head obstacle sprint race is incredibly exciting because we know that by engaging Generation Z, potential sponsors will have the opportunity to be seen by hundreds of millions on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

What makes modern pentathlon attractive to sponsors?

Obstacle’s inclusion unlocks a game-changing opportunity for our sport. Youngsters in parks and playgrounds worldwide can now dream of competing at future UIPM World Championships or even the Olympic Games.

Obstacle’s affordability, safety, and global accessibility mirror successful sports like athletics and swimming, making it an ideal foundation for youth sports participation. 

By connecting with millions of young people and a growing urban sport community, Obstacle creates a huge potential audience for sponsors, opening doors to exciting and innovative new partnerships.

Moreover, our new-look sport allows UIPM to improve its environmental, social, and governance (ESG) ratings by reducing its carbon footprint for competitions and training. This is achieved through the use of existing obstacle facilities and by ensuring new facilities are built for permanent access and future reuse.

Combine this with single elimination in fencing and the spectator-friendly and fast-paced event of laser run, and the overall package is incredibly compelling.

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