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Modern pentathlon, badminton face the chop in 2020 Olympic vote

Some of Ireland’s top athletes will be watching tomorrow’s IOC deliberations anxiously.

Natalya Coyle: ninth in modern pentathlon last summer but the event could be cut from the 2020 Olympics.
Natalya Coyle: ninth in modern pentathlon last summer but the event could be cut from the 2020 Olympics.
Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

BADMINTON, TAEKWONDO AND Modern Pentathlon are all in danger of being cut from the Olympics in 2020.

The Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meets in Lausanne tomorrow where it will vote to remove one sport from the 2020 Games. The Executive Board will then vote at a later date on what sport should replace it with squash – which lost out to golf and rugby sevens for the 2016 edition – and karate among the frontrunners to do so.

Tomorrow’s vote will be watched closely by some of Ireland’s top athletes including 22-year-old Natalya Coyle, ninth in the modern pentathlon at her debut Olympics in London, and top badminton players Scott Evans and Chloe Magee. Evans and Magee competed at both the Beijing and the London Games, with Evans’ first-round match against defending champion and world number one Lin Dan watched by estimated television audience in the tens of millions.

However the sport’s image took a massive blow at last year’s Olympics with the scandal that saw eight women’s doubles players from South Korea, Indonesia and China disqualified for trying to lose matches. The Badminton World Federation subsequently took steps to avoid a repeat.

Badminton also has the heavyweight support of IOC vice-president Craig Reedie and its removal would upset the Chinese.

Taekwondo has been in a precarious position for a while, although it was seen to have had a successful London Games, not least because of the gold medal won by exuberant 19-year-old Welsh star Jade Jones which helped to shed the sport’s image of being solely the preserve of Asian athletes.

Modern pentathlon — the five-discipline multisport comprising fencing, swimming, horse riding and a combined run/shoot — would seem to be the most at risk.

“It is very expensive to put on and is slightly anachronistic, and doesn’t look terrific on television,” one IOC critic of it told AFP.

However, it gained widespread praise for its showing at the London Games and with Juan Antonio Samaranch Junior — long-time vice-president of the sport’s governing body — sitting on the IOC’s Executive Board, they will at least have a powerful voice arguing in their favour.

IOC members outside the board will have the chance to vote their approval or not of the sport being voted off the 28 sports roster and its replacement at the IOC Congress in Buenos Aires in early September.

© AFP 2013, additional reporting by Niall Kelly

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