Last week, it was announced that an obstacle discipline will most likely replace the equestrian discipline of the Modern Pentathlon. OCR Buddy immediately reached out to Ian Adamson, President of World Obstacle, to answer “10 questions” regarding the news, what’s ahead and what this means for the sport of obstacle racing. Here is the Modern Pentathlon version of “10 Questions with Ian Adamson”.
(Note: OCR Buddy is the official calendar for World Obstacle and multiple National Federations. Russ Blatt has been the Assistant Director of USAOCR since 2019 and had no prior knowledge of the Modern Pentathlon announcement.)
Exactly what was voted upon last week by Modern Pentathlon?
The Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) 5th Discipline Working Group evaluated 62
proposals to identify a suitable replacement for Riding in the Olympic sport of Modern Pentathlon
How was World Obstacle involved in that decision?
World Obstacle was invited to present obstacle events as a possible replacement for the horses in
If you can, in various articles you are quoted as saying that there are a possible number of possibilities being discussed for testing, what are they?
The two obstacle disciplines I presented were chosen for testing by the UIPM 5th Discipline Working
Group, which will be announced soon together with more testing details. Testing will be an evolving
the process to identify the best possible format to be compatible with Modern Pentathlon and meeting
the requirements specified by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to be included on the Los
Angeles 2028 Olympic Programme.
World Obstacle has been developing event formats since 2017 to satisfy Olympic criteria,
including the OCRT 100m, 400m, 5K, with individual and mixed teams accepted for six medal events
in the 2019 South East Asia Games, an international multisport games recognized by the IOC.
Producing these and refining the courses, competitions rules, obstacles, officials & athlete
development, world standards, broadcast, and sport presentation were extremely useful for
understanding the expectations for Olympic Sport in a way obstacle sports are practiced and
generally accepted by the obstacle community.
We also works closely with rights holders, broadcasters and competition producers for Ninja Warrior
show competitions, and have been developing Ninja race competition formats since 2015 that
resulted in our 2019 Ninja World Championships in Moscow. This event had 100,000 spectators and
athletes from 20 countries.
This June is the first test, correct? What is happening and how will this affect future
Arriving at an obstacle format that meets the requirements for Modern Pentathlon and those
specified by the IOC is a process that requires testing events with input and feedback from all
stakeholders and from the obstacle sports and Pentathlon athlete communities. We have asked our
national member federation (the national governing bodies in 110 countries), and well-respected
athlete leaders to volunteers and help in this process.
Unlike commercial interests and event brands, sports federations are not-for-profit organizations that
exist to provide sport functions, pathways to the highest levels of international competition for
national team athletes, voice, vote and representation for the athletes and sports communities. We
are volunteers who are passionate athletes who want to unify and build a vibrant, diverse, and
dynamic sport that represents all stakeholders needs.
Community input is essential to ensure the format represents the OCR and Ninja communities’
expectations, while meeting the format, broadcast, and programme requirements for Modern
Pentathlon and the Olympic Programme.
What are some of the falsehoods being stated publicly?
I don’t pay attention to noise in the media, which is often inaccurate or misleading. It has come to
my attention however that disingenuous and fabricated information is being promoted, which is
disappointing. If a vested interest such as for-profit corporations, event promoter, or people with little
understanding of international and Olympic Sport make these statements, I trust the community will
question them, and do their research understand the facts. World Obstacle is always available to
provide accurate information and encourages all parties of interest to get involved with their national
federation or directly with World Obstacle to truly understand and help with the process.
It can be disheartening when falsehoods are used for personal or financial gain by vested interests.
This is often presented as being for the sport, when it is at the expense of, or profiting from the sport.
It saddens me when people act to divide, restrict, and create dissension rather that collaborate on
opportunities for our amazing sports.
You have been working on this since 2014, how does this feel personally?
Creating the governance structure, systems and sport functions that constitute an international
federation (IF) are complex and time consuming (it can take decades), so it was rewarding for our
team when World Obstacle was granted GAISF Observer Status last year, one of only 2 IFs that
achieved this since 2017. There are more than 300 international sports organizations working toward
approval, and it can take many more years to satisfy IOC membership criteria. As an example,
International Rugby League was formalized in 1948 and is one of only 11 GAISF Observers.
Credit goes to my friend and colleague Joe De Sena who initiated the formation of an international
federation in 2014. Getting to this point requires thousands of volunteers who work tirelessly to
establish and build the communities that make up the national member federations of World
Obstacle in 110 countries. Many more individuals volunteer to run the committees that provide the
sport functions, such as safe sport, safety, medical, health, anti-doping, competitions, para, and
diversity. We are always seeking people to fill these committees, so hopefully the recent
developments with Modern Pentathlon will prompt people to step up and help.
Will World Obstacle be involved in the decision making and/or course decisions going
forward regarding the obstacle discipline of Modern Pentathlon?
I have been proposed by UIPM to chair an ad-hoc group that focuses on obstacle discipline testing,
competition rules and relevant technical details. As the President of World Obstacle (and a
former professional athlete, world record holder, and 3x Games medallist), it is my duty and desire to
represent the OCR and Ninja communities effectively, and consider input from all parties of interest,
especially the athletes.
We encourage collaboration from all parties of interest and keep an open door to ensure the process
is open and transparent/
In your opinion only, is this the first step to other Olympic inclusion? There are other
sports within Modern Pentathlon that are independent sports. Or, is it asked better if I say,
what are your hopes for further inclusion?
Being included as a Modern Pentathlon discipline is a very fast way to possible inclusion on the
Olympic Programme. As you point out, the other MP disciplines are events of other sports such as
Aquatics (FINA) and Fencing (FIE). UIPM is highly collaborative and very friendly with these sports
and Obstacle is no different in this respect. Working with UIPM opens many doors and presents
opportunities and possibilities for obstacle athletes and Pentathletes.
Obstacle sports are widely watched (1B people view Ninja shows each year in 148 countries) and
OCR is practiced in about 120 countries. My goal, and job, is to provide leadership for World
Obstacle and represent the needs and desires of the obstacle sports athletes and communities. This
is done through our national member federations and athlete advisory council, which as I stated
before, we encourage people to join.
Being on the Olympic Programme in any format would be a privilege and benefit to the athletes by
increasing opportunities, and in many countries provide funding to further develop obstacle sports.
We already see this in countries whose national federations are members of their National Olympic
Committees (NOCs). About 20% of our members have National Sports Authority and / or NOC
recognition and this number is growing fast. Some of these are members of other sports including
Modern Pentathlon and Athletics at the national level, and many exist independent.
What do you say to the athlete that says, “this isn’t OCR in the Olympics”?
OCR takes many forms (110m to Ultra) and is one of several obstacle sport disciplines. The World
Obstacle structure is like the IFs that serve Modern Pentathlon, Athletics, Aquatics, Cycling and
Canoe/Kayak. The IFs for these sports provide common governance and efficiencies, and the
pathway to national team representation and participation in Games. Not all disciplines and events of
these sports are on the Olympic Programme, but all belong to the Olympic family, and have many
benefits from this.
World Athletics, as an example, has 13 disciplines, each with events. Mountain Running, Ultra
Running, and Trail Running are not on the Olympic Programme, but Sprints, Middle/Long, Hurdles,
Jumps, Throws, Relays and Road Running do have events on the programme.
The world governing body of the Olympic Sport of Modern Pentathlon also governs other multidiscipline sports such as Biathle (swim – run), Triathle (swim – run – laser shooting), Laser Run,
World School Biathlon, Tetrathlon, and Pentathlon team sport under FISU as well as para-pentathlon
under the International Paralympic Committee. Theoretically it could also include obstacle events
like obstacle run, obstacle laser run, obstacle swim, etc. Interestingly the 200m Obstacle Swim was
in the 1900 Olympic Games, and the Ancient Pentathlon looked a lot like Spartan Race.
The most recent men’s Modern Pentathlon Olympic Gold Medallist, Joe Choong, although reportedly
frustrated about the replacement of riding, is regarded as an incredible all-around athlete and would
probably excel as an obstacle athlete.
Personally, I know of various restrictions and regulations that you as President of
World Obstacle in relation to the Olympics. How important is it for you to be sure to follow
For an event to be considered for inclusion on the Olympic Programme, it must be governed by an
IF that is recognized by the IOC, and this requires meeting many criteria for ethics, governance,
structure, functions, and representation (not-for-profit, democratic, non-governmental, etc.)
There are many criteria an organization must meet to be considered an International Sporting
Federation. GAISF Observer Status is the first level of recognition and may be the most difficult and
longest for most organizations. Recognition by the IOC, i.e., being an Olympic Sport, requires 75
National Member Federations of the IF to be recognized by their National Olympic Committee, and
we are about 1/3 of the way there. This can take decades, but our national member federations have
been very effective and relatively fast in achieving recondition. Considering World Obstacle was
formalized in 2018 (four years after founding), we have been quicker than most.
To learn more about World Obstacle: World Obstacle