Doctor, I think I may be coming down with a case of Olympic-fever.

Although Japanese TV occasionally gets a bad rap for its quality, there have also been a good number of groundbreaking hits like Terrace House or Old Enough which have found success around the world. Another good example is Sasuke, which also goes by various titles that include Ninja Warrior overseas.

Since Sasuke’s debut on TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System) in 1997, thousands of contestants from around the world have been drawn in to take on the most interesting and most difficult obstacle courses ever seen. Competitors must rely on a high degree of strength, speed, balance, and timing all at once to even stand a change.

And now, it looks as if Sasuke might do what no other television program in history has done and evolve into an official Olympic event. On 27 June, TBS announced its involvement in a new obstacle course portion for the revised modern pentathlon event which is set to debut at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

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.

The UIPM is currently holding test competitions to develop the new obstacle portion with the first one held right after the Modern Pentathlon World Cup Final in Ankara, Turkey. For this test run, the UIPM and World Obstacle requested that obstacles be built from set pieces used in European productions of Ninja Warrior.

▼ A video with some glimpses of the obstacles before they’re set up

Four types of obstacles, including the Wall Flip and Parallel Pipes, were set to be used and tested by pentathletes for feedback on their usability. 2018 World Cup bronze-medalist Sophia Hernandez was one of the participants and said of the obstacles: “I’m a little nervous because it’s difficult, but I think it’s interesting and a good opportunity for us. As a viewer of Sasuke: Ninja Warrior, I’m always impressed by the participants when they clear a tough course.”

Readers of the news seemed equally excited about the update according to online comments about the matter.

“Horses are out and Sasuke is in? Seriously? lol”
“I thought I was reading a parody news site at first.”
“I like it. Looking forward to it!”
“Is it that popular outside of Japan?”
“Sasuke at the Olympics sounds pretty cool.”
“It is entertaining. I’m surprised they didn’t use it in Tokyo.”
“I don’t care about the Olympics at all, but if Sasuke is there, I will be too.”
“Looks like Sasuke is beating out baseball.”
“I really hope they still call it ‘Sasuke’ in the Olympics.”
“But what happens when no one can clear it?”

Indeed, one of the defining qualities of Sasuke is that sometimes it’s so hard that none of the 100 challengers win. That doesn’t seem like such a problem because being a part of the pentathlon, points can be awarded based on progress for the overall event. Or, it might even be more entertaining if the participants aren’t eliminated when falling off the course. Instead they would have to get back on and try again until finishing, or choose to give up.

Luckily, there’s plenty of time for the details to get ironed out before Sasuke makes its mark on the 2028 Games, and hopefully those distinct metal-tube apparatuses will still be there in all their glory. Once that’s locked in, we can get to work on finally getting a long-overdue Iron Chef event into the Olympics.

Source: Sponichi Annex, My Game News Flash
Top image: YouTube/SASUKE Ninja Warrior
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