Olympics-Loss of horses a 'sad moment' for modern pentathlon, Davis says

American modern pentathlon athlete Jessica Davis poses for a portrait during the Team USA media summit ahead of the Paris Olympics and Paralympics, at an event in New York, U.S., April 16, 2024. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Horses will make their final Olympic appearance in the modern pentathlon at the Paris Games and American hopeful Jessica Davis said that while she feels a sense of loss, the sport is capable of evolving.

Modern pentathlon, which traditionally features fencing, swimming, equestrian show jumping, pistol shooting and running, was plunged into a scandal at the Tokyo Games in 2021 when a German coach struck a horse that refused to jump a fence.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) dropped the sport from its initial list for the 2028 Los Angeles Games but approved its inclusion after global governing body UIPM replaced horse riding with obstacle racing.

"Obviously it's a sad moment to see your sport change but we look at it like a graduating class," Davis, who grew up riding horses, said during a media summit on Tuesday.

"It's the modern pentathlon. It wasn't always the modern pentathlon. Once it was the ancient pentathlon. It continues to evolve with the world around it."

Davis said the headline-grabbing incident in Tokyo was unfortunate but not representative of the sport as a whole.

"It was an emotional moment that was looked at in a very aggressive way," she told reporters.

"I don't condone the behavior... but we got this bad wrap as being these people who don't care about horses because we're not equestrians.

"The fact is we are. Because we have some bad apples, like any sport does, does not mean we're not equestrians. These people love their horses."

Davis said she hoped the sport, which has struggled to gain traction with the public, will garner more attention in Paris where it will feature a shorter, 90-minute run time and be staged at the historic Palace of Versailles.

"I adore the sport and we work so hard," she said.

"I wish more people could pay attention and see it and understand it."

Davis, 32, said she had planned to end her Olympic career after the Paris Games whether the equestrian event was included or not but said horse jumping being axed from the sport would be "very emotional".

"I believe that if we had found better ways to market and show people our sport, we would have had a better case for keeping it," she said.

"But the fact that we got the eyes we needed for a negative reason was our downfall."

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in New York; Editing by Toby Davis)

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