Japanese capital gears up for Tokyo 2020 by successfully hosting its first major international modern pentathlon event since the 1964 Games.
Japan rolled back the years and rose to the challenge, as the first Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games test event of 2019 came to a thrilling conclusion on Sunday. A total of 72 athletes from more than 20 countries lined up for the UIPM 2019 Pentathlon World Cup Final, with the sport’s leading names all hoping to grab one of two qualifying places for the Games next summer.
Following the Olympic format, the event provided the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and the sport’s governing body, the International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM), with a logistical dress rehearsal over four days of intense competition at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza.
Lithuanian star Laura Asadauskaite certainly agreed. The London 2012 gold medallist booked her place in the field for Tokyo 2020 after beating Rio 2016 silver medal-winner Elodie Clouvel to the women’s world title on Friday; and she cannot wait to return to the Japanese capital.
“Today is a very happy day,” Asadauskaite told the UIPM. “I had a very good fence, a good ride and swim and also a good laser run. I’m very happy because I have the qualification for the Olympic Games. See you next year when I will come back here – l like this city very much. I think I am ready for the Olympic Games.”
Despite narrowly missing out on a return ticket to Tokyo, silver medallist Clouvel remained upbeat.
“The organisation has been very good and the complex is amazing, and I am (still) confident about coming back for the Olympic Games,” the 30-year-old French athlete told the UIPM.
In the men’s event, Joseph Choong of Great Britain outsprinted Germany's Marvin Dogue on Saturday in a repeat of the final laser run of the regular World Cup season.
One of the many thoughtful touches added to the complex by the organisers were portraits of Baron Pierre de Coubertin either side of the first jump on the riding course. The father of the modern Olympic Games was also the founder of modern pentathlon, first introducing the sport to the wider public at the Stockholm 1912 Olympic Games.
The current President of the UIPM, Klaus Schormann, knows that the contrasting requirements of the five disciplines make the successful staging of a test event for the sport in 2019 even more notable.
“Not all international federations have this capability, but we are in this situation,” Schormann said before the opening ceremony on Thursday. “I think all of the athletes are very pleased to compete here.”
The pentathlon events at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will take place over three days in the city suburb of Chofu, around 25km to the west of the city centre of Tokyo. The fencing ranking round will be held in the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza. The final day of competition will see the athletes compete in the adjoining Tokyo Stadium, opened in 2001, where the athletes will compete in the Swimming, Fencing bonus round, the equestrian event and the deciding laser-run. The 49,000-capacity venue was playing host on Saturday to the country’s top football team, FC Tokyo, meaning that these disciplines were instead tested at the adjoining AGF field.
Although the main stadium may change next summer, the athletes in action this weekend were given advance notice of one element that may not: the weather.
“It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity – and we were sweating all the way through the riding and the laser run,” Annika Schleu of Germany told the UIPM on Friday after winning bronze in the women’s event.
To address the less welcome symptoms of the city’s summer climate, Tokyo 2020 and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government are taking a holistic approach, using this test event to begin trialling countermeasures in collaboration with the Japanese government and the various sports federations.
"In the conditions, the Organising Committee have done extremely well to organise spectators and a very special atmosphere in all disciplines; the athletes like this and so do we," UIPM President Schormann said after the men’s event was deluged by rain on Saturday. Tokyo 2020 has prepared with the Modern Pentathlon Association of Japan in a fantastic way. We have never seen such close to attention to the infrastructure and what is needed; and we can already say that next year we are going to have the perfect Olympic Games.”
With the staging of its 2019 World Cup Final, modern pentathlon has become the third sport to hold a test event for Tokyo 2020 ,and the second to do so in the Japanese capital, following on from the sailing and water polo tests organised in late 2018.
The modern pentathlon event will be followed by six more test events in July, including the Japan Open badminton championships at the same Musashino venue, and four events staged by the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee under the official brand name, “Ready, Steady, Tokyo”.