August 4th, 2011

Lasers Replace Pistols for Modern Pentathlon at London Olympics

UIPM logo PentathlonThe Modern Pentathlon is a 5-discipline Olympic event that combines Horse Riding, Running, Swimming, Fencing, and Shooting. However it looks like there won’t be real shooting anymore, at least at the 2012 London Games.

Union International de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) President Klaus Schormann declared that laser guns will be used instead of air pistols in the Modern Pentathlon at the 2012 London Olympics. Schormann claimed the lasers would enhance safety and allow “competitions in parks and even shooting malls”. Last year, UIPM officials argued for the use of lasers to reduce the environmental impact of lead pellets from air pistols. Schormann stated: “The decision to introduce non-air pistol shooting … is a significant development in terms of lowering the environmental impact of the sport.” That’s nonsense — Pentathlon air pistols fire tiny 7-grain pellets that are easily captured by bullet traps, so there is virtually no environmental risk.

UIPM logo PentathlonSebastian, creator of the Snowflakes in Hell Blog, observed: “The reasoning of the [UIPM] committee is disturbing. I hope this doesn’t portend bad things to come with other Olympic shooting sports, whose environmental footprint is arguably worse.” One Snowflakes Blog reader astutely commented: “It would have been trivially easy to mandate lead-free pellets, if the ‘lead poisoning’ argument were the real reason behind this change. Replacing air pistols with lasers instead of a much simpler requirement to use nontoxic shot suggests that it was the ‘gun-ishness’ of the air pistols, and not the environmental impact, that may have been the primary driver here.”

Technical Problems with Laser Systems
British pentathlete Sam Weale recently challenged the use of lasers in Modern Pentathlon. According to the Inside the Games website, Weale claims persistent technical problems with the laser shooting system have rendered Modern Pentathlon a “lottery” which threatens the integrity of the sport. Olympians can not trust the electronic scoring systems, Weale argues. “It can’t go on, it is embarrassing,” said Weale, who, along with four other atheletes, lodged a protest over malfunctioning targets at the recent European Championships.

Read Full Story on Modern Pentathlon Protest by UK Pentathlete Sam Weale.

UIPM Decision Criticized by USA Shooting & ISSF
The Outdoor Wire’s Jim Shepherd polled leading shooting sports officials and found widespread criticism of the UIPM decision to replace pistols with laser devices. According to Shepherd: “USA Shooting and International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) dislike the change. Their position is simple, the laser gun takes much out of the ‘shooting’ element of external conditions (pistol and pellet accuracy) and turns shooting ‘into an arcade game’. They view it as a possible threat to shooting, moving away from what is ‘shooting sport’.”

EDITOR’s Comment: One wonders if the UIPM’s next move will be to replace fencing foils and sabres with Wii computer-game controllers — in the interest of safety. And shouldn’t the UIPM replace Pentathletes’ four-legged equine mounts with hobby-horses to reduce solid waste and methane emissions?