The modern pentathlon is one of the most unique events on the Olympic schedule, but the event in Tokyo has been criticised for its 'random' nature after a leading competitor was dumped through no fault of her own.
Consisting of five disciplines, fencing, swimming, running, shooting and horse riding, competitors must display an uncommon level of versatility to succeed.
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However the show jumping portion of the pentathlon at the Tokyo Olympics has fallen into controversy due to a unique rule in the event.
Athletes are not permitted to use a horse of the own for the show jumping section - instead, they are given a horse selected at random and have 20 minutes to bond with the animal before being sent out on course.
However on Friday night, several of the horses given to riders just weren't up for the task, with multiple riders falling out of contention due to unwilling steeds.
Imagine: You come 4th in Rio, you go again, train so hard, ‘Tokyo will be my Games’. The big day comes and it’s going brilliantly, you have one of the biggest leads in #Olympics history. And then a random horse ruins your dream. Crushing for Annika Schleu pic.twitter.com/sbXI3C8Ox1
— Jason Keen (@Jason_Keen) August 6, 2021
None fell further than Germany's Annika Schleu, who held the lead heading into the horse riding event but fell completely out of contention when her mount absolutely refused to cooperate.
Schleu, who finished fourth in the event at the 2016 Rio Olympics, was in tears riding around the course as her horse flatly refused to tackle any of the obstacles on course.
Several other riders also had difficulties with their mounts, with commentator and former British pentathlete Heather Fell describing Schleu's predicament as a 'real life nightmare'.
“This is hard to watch, hard to commentate on,” Fell continued.
Natalya Coyle of Ireland also suffered from an unhelpful steed, plummeting from fourth in the rankings to 19th.
“I suppose it’s just added disappointment because to be third in events and to be so close and to feel like it’s a bit snatched away from you, it’s really disappointing," Coyle said.
“That’s pentathlon, unfortunately. I knew it was going to be tough when I watched the first rider not get around so I knew that was really tough.
“I thought I had made a good plan and it worked a lot in the arena but he just didn’t want to go near it.
Fans question 'stupid' modern pentathlon rule
The devastating turn of events lefts some fans querying why athletes were not permitted to use their own mounts for the show jumping section.
Many felt there was an element of chance involved when it came to the show jumping, with the recalcitrant horses not giving several riders an opportunity to prove their riding skills.
"Natalya Coyle draws a horse who just doesn’t fancy it today. And that is the horrendous luck of this draw. Crazy event. She went into showjumping in 4th & leaves it in 19th. Beyond cruel," Irish reporter Jacqui Hurley wrote.
"Serious questions need to be asked in the aftermath about the standard of horses. Huge disparity between many of them was clearly visible."
Others on Twitter were similarly perplexed by what had unfolded.
That show jumping element of the pentathlon is nuts. 20 minutes to bond with a horse. Ridiculous. That poor German girl given an apparently distressed horse and losing a big overall lead. Stupid.
— Nick Holder (@valetudocage) August 6, 2021
German athlete crying as she knows gold medal is slipping. In pole position going into this round. Heartbreaking watching the horse who has no interest in jumping, causing her difficulty from the start. #ModernPentathlon #Olympics
— Her Sport (@HerSportDotIE) August 6, 2021
This is ridiculous. Work for your whole life to have a chance of an Olympic medal then have it torn away from you through no fault of your own. How they allow this format for the modern pentathlon is beyond us. #Tokyo2020
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) August 6, 2021
Not being able to bring your own horse in modern pentathlon is just so cruel, but it’s an integral part of the sport. It goes back to a solider being able to ride out of battle on any horse 🐎 Natalya did everything to tame that rogue 😭 #Tokyo2020
— Evanne Ní Chuilinn (@EvanneNiC) August 6, 2021
The magic of the #Olympics
Where we can go from knowing practically nothing about Modern Pentathlon…to deciding they need to completely change the rules of the entire sport in the space of half an hour!
— Nathan Murphy (@nathanmurf) August 6, 2021
the gods of modern pentathlon: "yeah, you're an exceptional fencer, you're an insanely good athlete when it comes to swimming and running, and boy can you shoot. But I'm afraid we can't consider you for a medal because you are not Doctor Doolittle"
— Eoin Sheahan (@EoinSheahan) August 6, 2021
Kate French snapped Great Britain's 21-year gold medal drought in the women's modern pentathlon, also breaking Australian Chloe Esposito's Olympic record from Rio.
With the Australian defending Olympic champion missing the Tokyo Games after recently becoming a mum, French stormed home in the final event, the laser run, to take top spot.
Australia's representative Marina Carrier, in her first Olympics, finished 27th after falling down the standings in the final round.
Lithuanian world record holder Laura Asadauskaite won silver and Hungary's Sarolta Kovacs was third.
Starting 15 seconds back French won the 3200 metres laser run - which sees competitors running 800m laps before picking up their laser gun to take five shots at a target - to secure the title.
French's accuracy gave her an edge on her rivals, missing just two of her 22 shots.
She also performed strongly through the first three events, sitting sixth after the fencing, which was held on Thursday, and then coming eighth in the 200m freestyle swim.
For the first time at the Olympics, all the disciplines were held in one stadium, with a pool erected at one end of Tokyo Stadium.
French picked up one extra point in the fencing bonus round and was then one of very few riders to go clear in the show jumping, although she did pick up six time penalties.
She finished with a tally of 1385 points to eclipse Esposito's Olympic record of 1372.
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