By Mac Christie, Times-Advocate Staff
OTTAWA – Modern pentathlon will remain in the Olympic program.
The sport avoided the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) axe last week when the committee surprisingly recommended wrestling to be cut from the 2020 Games.
In addition to wrestling, modern pentathlon, field hockey, taekwondo and canoeing were on the block, with the executive board’s final vote coming down to wrestling, field hockey and pentathlon.
Canadian modern pentathlete Melanie McCann of Mount Carmel said she’s very pleased her event will stay in the program.
“I think it belongs there,” said the Canadian Olympian. “Competing in London was one of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life, so to see it carry through to Rio (de Janeiro, the host of the 2016 Games) and then onto the 2020 Games is really a good thing.”
Modern pentathlon has a rich history, as it was invented by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, and was first held in the 1912 Games in Sweden.
McCann, who placed 11th at the 2012 Games in London, noted she was nervous prior to the decision, but said the Union International de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), the sport’s governing body, did a lot of lobbying for modern pentathlon.
She said she was surprised to see wrestling cut, especially since it was in the ancient Olympic Games.
“Wrestling sort of figured they were safe,” she said. “Their international federation didn’t do a whole lot of lobbying.”
But McCann noted she has many friends who wrestle on an Olympic level, and added Canada often does well in wrestling at the Olympics.
“For us as a nation it will be sad to see the sport go,” said McCann, who is training in Ottawa prior to her first World Cup event of the season this weekend. “I hope the Canadian Olympic Committee does their part in the lobbying (to keep wrestling in the Olympics).”
Wrestling will now join a group of seven other sports to receive consideration for the 2020 Olympics.
It will go up against a joint baseball and softball bid, the martial arts karate and wushu, wakeboarding, squash and sports climbing for inclusion.
The IOC will meet in May to decide which sports will be voted on for final inclusion in September.
McCann said having the sport in the Olympics past 2016 will keep athletes interested.
“If it’s the last time…athletes aren’t going to be as interested,” she explained. “You would see a lot of the participation drop off because the biggest accomplishment you can have in the sport is an Olympic medal.”
While it’s nearly seven years away, McCann noted competing in a third Olympics in 2020 isn’t out of the question for her.
“In pentathlon you see a lot of women maturing later in their career,” she said. Absolutely it could be a possibility that I may decide to continue my career to 2020.
“It’s nice to have that option.”