Germany’s modern pentathlon coach Kim Raisner has been disqualified from the Tokyo Olympic Games for “appearing to strike the horse Saint Boy … with her fist,” the governing UIPM said Saturday.
In Friday’s women’s competition in Tokyo, Raisner was heard on television encouraging athlete Annika Schleu to “properly” whip the horse as Saint Boy repeatedly refused to take the course.
Schleu, in tears as her medal hopes collapsed, duly struck the horse to no effect and has since been the centre of a social media “shitstorm,” she told dpa.
“I have already got awful comments,” she said of her decision to deactivate, though not delete, her Instagram account, “for my own protection.”
Schleu said her boyfriend and mother had taken similar steps after comments made towards the trio from animal rights proponents which “went way too far.
“I knew that pictures that aren’t nice would go round the world but I have not counted on such a shitstorm or so much negative hate.”
The Athletes Germany organization defended Schleu, saying the “hostility and the partly open hatred that she has faced on social networks since yesterday’s equestrian competition is unacceptable and must be condemned in the strongest possible way.”
Raisner was not present at the Tokyo Stadium for Saturday’s men’s event with the German Olympic chief Alfons Hoermann saying it was the “best solution” to avoid “further question marks” about the coach.
Briton Joe Choong sprinted to victory in a thrilling men’s event despite briefly losing the gold medal position to Egyptian Ahmed Elgendy after the final shooting.
But he timed his counter-attack perfectly and struck with 500 metres remaining of the decisive laser run to win by just under 5 seconds with Elgendy taking silver and South Korean Jun Woong Tae edging compatriot Jung Jin Hwa for bronze.
It completed a British modern pentathlon double after Kate French took gold in the women’s event.
Hoermann said the decision on Raisner had been reached mutually following discussions between her, Schleu and Susanne Wiedemann, sport director of the Germany modern pentathlon federation.
The UIPM though said Raisner had been given a “black card … disqualifying her from the remainder of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” by its executive board following the review of video footage which showed previously unseen shots of an alleged punch.
“Her actions were deemed to be in violation of the UIPM Competition Rules, which are applied to all recognised Modern Pentathlon competitions including the Olympic Games,” a statement said.
An International Olympic Committee spokesperson said the drama around Schleu was “disturbing” and added: “We feel for the athlete and the horse. Animal welfare is of the utmost importance.”
Modern pentathlon contains swimming, fencing, running and shooting but a key element of the sport is riding an unfamiliar horse, with athletes given only 20 minutes to bond with their animal before competing.
Raisner is not the first member of the German delegation to run into trouble in Tokyo as cycling sports director Patrick Moster was sent home and suspended until the end of the year after making a racist comment during the men’s road time trial.
Lena Schoeneborn, who won modern pentathlon gold for Germany at Beijing 2008, told the Bild newspaper she “could not understand the sentiment” of Raisner’s comments.
Schleu’s difficulties with Saint Boy has raised questions about the nature of horse riding in the competition.
The German modern pentathlon federation said adjustments had already been suggested to the UIPM with Schoeneborn saying athletes meeting their horse a day before riding would make a big difference.
Klaus Schormann, the 75-year-old German president of the UIPM, however, insisted the horses were “absolutely excellent” and there was “no basis” for athletes to complain.
“It is only because of the athletes themselves if they were not successful in some parts of the competition,” said Schormann. “Nobody from the organizing committee should be blamed.
“Everything was genius, was super, and I’m very happy with [UIPM] secretary general Shiny Fang in what we have achieved together with the organizing committee.”
But the UIPM also acknowledged people were “concerned about horse and athlete welfare in modern pentathlon,” according to Britain’s PA agency with “a statement in due course” after the completion of the event.
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