What You Need to Know About the 1st Obstacle Discipline Test in Turkey

What You Need to Know About the 1st Obstacle Discipline Test in Turkey
Presented by Spartan Training®

Obstacle course racing's path to the Olympics took another major step forward on June 27-28, with the successful test of the Obstacle Discipline event in Ankara, Turkey.

The Obstacle Discipline Test Event was hailed as a success by a global group of senior and junior pentathletes, as well as obstacle specialists, who gathered in Ankara. The two communities, represented by 100 athletes from 19 countries, mingled on a day filled with smooth competition, camaraderie, and mutual learning.

Following a practice day, in which the athletes were given a briefing and a technical demonstration of the obstacles and the course, they were allotted 90 minutes to practice. Then, they had two chances to run the course for time to qualify for the medal rounds. The course was built in collaboration with World Obstacle, Tokyo Broadcasting System, and Spartan Race.

The course featured the following nine obstacles:

  1. Rope Swing
  2. A-Frame
  3. Beater
  4. Over-Under-Through
  5. Wheels
  6. Hurdle
  7. Rings
  8. Balance Beams
  9. Warped Wall

With a time of 27.42 seconds, France's Dimitri Houles, fresh off winning the 100m at the OCR European Championships, was the men's champion in the event. He was followed by Switzerland's Steve Trachsel, who finished second, and Great Britain's James Burton. Australia's Olivia Vivian — a former Olympic gymnast, Ninja World Champion and world-record holder, and Australian Ninja Warrior finalist — took the women's title. Poland's Kat Jonaczyk captured the silver medal and Belgium's Ibtisam Gardabou took bronze.

"The pentathletes I saw on the obstacle course today were incredible," said Vivian, who has competed in three World Artistic Gymnastics Championships and won a silver medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. "To see the joy on their face, there is nothing like conquering an obstacle for the first time. And the improvement from the training session to the competition was already huge."

There were some notable Spartan athletes on hand in Turkey's capital for the test event. Great Britain's Harvey Mitchell-Divers, the reigning M14-17 Spartan World Champion, competed, as did Great Britain's Louise Ferriman, who captured the World Championship in the F40-44 category in Abu Dhabi in 2021. Also in the mix was Turkey's Efe Tunay, who finished eighth overall at the 2021 Spartan World Championship and second in his age group.

What Happens Next?

Obstacle Discipline is being tested to replace equestrian as the fifth discipline in Modern Pentathlon at the Olympics. Following an evaluation of the event in Ankara, the format will be refined and a second test event will be held in August. (Those details have yet to be announced.) The UIPM (Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne) Congress will vote on a proposal to be submitted to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). If passed, Obstacle Discipline would become the fifth discipline of Modern Pentathlon after the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

The first event was a major step toward getting obstacle course racing across the finish line and into the Olympics.

"Today we had the historic first test event for the integration of a new fifth discipline in modern pentathlon, a new dawn for our sport," UIPM President Dr Klaus Schormann said on June 28. “The course setup was dynamic and challenging, and it tested the unique versatility and skills of pentathletes. The athletes really enjoyed the competition. You could see and feel the excitement in their faces and in their interviews afterwards. It was a great first step towards a youthful, urban, and highly accessible future for our sport.”

Giles Chater, Spartan's Senior Vice President of International, helped set and refine the course in Ankara, and he couldn't have been more pleased with the results in Turkey.

“Spartan Race has always promoted, and continues to support, the efforts to build obstacle course racing as a sport recognized by the IOC," Chater said.
"Achieving an event on the Olympic program opens the door to many possibilities for our talented athletes, serves as a platform for further growth, and increases the awareness of this incredible sport.”

Added World Obstacle President and test event director Ian Adamson, “It is encouraging to see the friendly interaction between Ninja athletes, obstacle course racers, pentathletes, staff, and officials from all organizations. There was a palpable sense of camaraderie and chemistry that developed throughout the event. This was a great start to a collaboration that could result in many opportunities for obstacle athletes and pentathletes.”