SASUKE, a Japanese sports reality show that people probably know better as Ninja Warrior, has been on the air since 1997. While it’s great fun to watch, never did I think they’d use it for like an actual intentionally sanctioned sporting competition, especially not for something like the literal Olympics. Yet, TBS has recently announced that the obstacle course series may be added as soon as the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics in the Modern Pentathlon to replace equestrian as one of the five events.
The broadcaster, which operates one of Japan’s five major terrestrial TV networks, is partnering with World Obstacle, the Fédération Internationale de Sports d’Obstacles (FISO) and the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) to test a “Sasuke”-like competition for inclusion in the Modern Pentathlon, which currently consists of five disciplines: fencing, swimming, equestrian show jumping, laser pistol shooting, and running. In May, UIPM announced that it would test an obstacle course as a possible replacement for the horseback discipline, following the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics.
Supposedly, the reason for the change is basically animal abuse after a coach was caught punching a horse that wouldn’t jump.
It all started back in the Tokyo Olympics, when German coach Kim Raisner punched a horse in the face. This prompted the International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM), at the insistence of the IOC, to quickly replace the show jumping portion of the five-discipline event with obstacle course running. The sudden change angered many athletes, but appears to be going ahead regardless, with the 2024 Paris Olympics being the last to feature show jumping as a part of the pentathlon.
Indeed, they are literally just using SASUKE courses.
Following the 2022 Pentathlon World Cup Final, the first test will be held on June 27 and 28 in Ankara, Turkey.
FISO president Ian Adamson said in a statement: “We are thrilled to be collaborating with TBS and the UIPM on the new 5th discipline. Obstacles have a long history in pentathlon, and introducing a new discipline that is practiced and watched by millions of people in over 160 countries in the form of ”Sasuke’ [Ninja Warrior’] shows has the potential to widen the audience for all stakeholders and enhance the appeal of the sport on the Olympic program.”
I love the Olympics because I love competition and what not, to the point where I watch it an unhealthy amount when it’s broadcasted. However, I have never really been interested in watching the Modern Pentathlon event. If they do this, I definitely will just out of curiosity if nothing else, and that is probably a factor in why this is even being considered.
Really though, I’m just using this as is an excuse to post SASUKE clips, including how hilarious it is to compare the course from the first event to the last victory achieved in 2020. Doesn’t even look like the same thing.
Out of approximately 3900 competitors over 39 competitions, only four people have ever achieved victory (six times total).