Britain's men's Olympic modern pentathlon champion Joe Choong has argued a change of UIPM leadership is "the most important thing for the sport right now" ©ITG

Men's Olympic champion Joe Choong has said that he has had "absolutely no contact" with International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM) President Klaus Schormann, and reiterated his belief that a change of leadership is priority.

Choong has been a vocal opponent of the UIPM's plans to replace riding with the obstacle discipline after the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Speaking to insidethegames here at the launch of a leadership campaign by Australia's three-time Olympian Alex Watson, the Briton placed a change of President above keeping riding in terms of its importance for the future of the sport.

"I think it's the most important thing for the sport right now," Choong said.

"If I could change one thing, it wouldn't be to keep horses over obstacles, it would be to change the current leadership.

"Being able to reach out and bring in revenue for the sport and sponsorship and run events in a professional way that helps athletes as well as the UIPM Board members is just so crucial for the sport right now, because as it is I don't think it matters which one we keep, the current leadership don't have the expertise or willingness to get external expertise that would help us stay in the [Olympic] Games."

The UIPM has faced accusations from the Pentathlon United pressure group of ignoring the will of athletes in pushing through its plans, although those claims have been strongly rebuffed by Schormann.

He has claimed that he is "known as a person who goes speaking to the athletes".

Choong said that his attempts to meet with Schormann during the debate over the sport's fifth discipline have been unsuccessful because he had been "too busy".

Olympic gold medallist Joe Choong has claimed that he has had
Olympic gold medallist Joe Choong has claimed that he has had "absolutely no contact" with the UIPM's long-serving President Klaus Schormann ©ITG

"It's so indicative of his leadership style," Choong claimed.

"Other than receiving a handshake on the podium every now and then, I've had absolutely no contact with him.

"I've said before there's very much an us as an athlete group and a them as the UIPM.

"There's no real desire from their side to engage with the athletes, because I feel like to them we're just numbers and a business to run.

"We don't get treated like people and we don't get treated like sports stars in other sports where they give a profile to their athletes and the athletes go on and bring more revenue to the sport by raising their profile.

"There's none of that in our sport unfortunately, it's all about modern pentathlon as the business itself."

While the move to replace riding has been the trigger for Choong to publicly condemn Schormann and back Watson's campaign, the Tokyo 2020 gold medallist outlined deeper issues.

"Obviously the obstacle-horse riding debate was the start of this whole thing, but it goes back far past that," he said.

"Even when I started the sport athletes commented on Klaus' leadership style, because it was a running joke among athletes even from back when I first started when I was 18, he was very autocratic and very much saw himself as the VIP.

"If you saw him and greeted him as Klaus, he would correct you and tell you to call him President.

"It obviously goes back to that.

"They seem to have so much money spent on them staying in beautiful five-star hotels while the athletes are staying in little hostels, so it does go past this, but obviously the worst thing that has happened is the way they've managed this obstacle course racing saga."

Britain's Joe Choong, right, is backing the UIPM leadership bid of Australia's Alex Watson, left ©ITG
Britain's Joe Choong, right, is backing the UIPM leadership bid of Australia's Alex Watson, left ©ITG

Advocates of the new fifth discipline have argued that it makes modern pentathlon more accessible, and should avoid a repeat of the upsetting scenes of Tokyo 2020, where German coach Kim Raisner was sent home in disgrace for punching a horse that refused to jump during the women's competition.

The UIPM has recently published results of surveys from its four obstacle disciplines which show 88 per cent satisfaction at the overall experience among respondents.

However, its statistics were questioned by Choong, who argued that the surveys had featured "misleading questions" and amounted to a "sham".

He also warned that athletes would "walk away" from the sport due to the scale of the change from riding to obstacle.

Modern pentathlon has been left off the initial programme for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics, with the International Olympic Committee awaiting a formal proposal on the sport's format before taking a final decision.

The upcoming online UIPM Congress on November 12 and 13 is set to feature a key vote on adopting obstacle as the sport's fifth discipline.

A motion of no confidence which is likely to prove pivotal to Watson's leadership hopes has also been brought against Schormann, who was re-elected unopposed last year.