Ever since 2007, when Spartan was first founded, Spartan founder and CEO Joe De Sena has been working towards making obstacle course racing an Olympic sport.
Now, at long last, that dream may finally be a reality.
According to the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), modern pentathlon's international governing body, obstacle course racing could potentially replace equestrian in the event, perhaps as soon as the 2028 Summer Olympics. It's unclear exactly what OCR in the Olympics would look like, as the UIPM plans to test two different variations of the sport.
“We are thrilled to be collaborating with UIPM on the new fifth discipline," said Fédération Internationale de Sports d’Obstacles (FISO) president Ian Adamson. "Obstacles have a long history in pentathlon, including the modern and ancient Olympic Games, and introducing obstacle disciplines that are watched and practiced by hundreds of millions of people in over 140 countries presents many opportunities for athletes, spectators, and the global sports audience.”
Modern pentathlon, which has been an Olympic sport since 1912, is made up of five disciplines, including fencing, freestyle swimming, pistol shooting, and cross country running. The fifth discipline, equestrian show jumping, appears to be on its way out. Equestrian's demise comes amid charges of animal abuse. At the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, German coach Kim Raisner was disqualified from the Games after she was caught on video punching a horse.
For De Sena, OCR in the Olympics is a natural fit.
"The ancient Spartans used obstacles to train their warriors," De Sena wrote in an op-ed for Sports Business Journal. "Around the same time, the Greeks held the first Olympic Games. There was no high-tech gear 2,500 years ago. They didn’t have a clue about aerodynamics. Those early Olympics were stripped down. It was all about the athletes and their inherent drive to be better, faster, and stronger. OCR is a modern-day expression of Spartan training and the first Olympians’ competitive spirit."
Joe's Full Op-Ed: Obstacle Course Racing Belongs in the Olympics
Explosive Growth Over the Past Decade-Plus
With Spartan leading the charge, obstacle course racing has emerged as a truly global sport over the last decade-plus. Spartan holds races in 45 countries, with 15 national series competitions spanning six continents in addition to regional European, Latin American, Asia-Pacific, and North American championship events. In December, the Spartan World Championship will be held in Abu Dhabi for a second consecutive year. Across the 45 countries in which Spartan has a foothold, 1.2 million Spartans competed in a race in 2021, and 7 million racers have crossed the finish line over the course of the company's history.
"After many months of detailed talks, we are on the brink of a landmark decision that would change the history of modern pentathlon, the sport we all love, forever," Yasser Hefny, Chairman of the UIPM Athletes Committee, said in a statement. "...While we still have specifics to finalize, we have a new and exceptional opportunity to grow and give visibility to our sport for the benefit of many generations to come, and that’s very exciting."
The 2028 Summer Olympics will be held in Los Angeles.