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German coach suspended for striking uncooperative horse at 2020 Tokyo Olympics pentathlon

Annika Schleu of Germany cries, unable to control her horse to compete in the equestrian portion of the women's modern pentathlon at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Aug. 6, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

A German coach at the Tokyo Olympics was suspended Saturday after being filmed hitting an uncooperative horse during the women’s modern pentathlon competition.

TV footage showed Kim Raisner leaning over a fence to strike the horse Saint Boy, which refused to jump the fences in the show jumping round on Friday. That cost German athlete Annika Schleu a chance of winning the gold medal.

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The International Modern Pentathlon Union said it reviewed footage showing Raisner “appearing to strike the horse … with her fist” and that “her actions were deemed to be in violation of (the rules).” She was also heard calling to Schleu to whip the horse harder.

Raisner’s suspension only applies for the rest of the Tokyo Olympics, which end Sunday. It wasn’t immediately clear if she would have had any role in Saturday’s men’s competition.

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Schleu, who competed in tears as her medal hopes evaporated, has also been criticized on social media for using the whip repeatedly.

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German athlete campaign group Athleten Deutschland criticized what it called “the hostility and partly open hate” directed at Schleu on social media and said modern pentathlon should consider changing its rules “to ensure animal protection and appropriate competition conditions for the athletes in future.”

Athletes in modern pentathlon are expected to ride horses they have never met before. Bonding with them quickly is considered part of the challenge. German officials have argued the sport should consider changing those rules.

Saint Boy had already refused to jump for another rider, Russian competitor Gulnaz Gubaydullina, earlier in the competition and the German Modern Pentathlon Union said he had been “traumatized by the previous rider” even before Schleu’s round.

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