Sushil Kumar has time and again waved the flag of Indian wrestling abroad — be it at the Asian Championships, World Championships or Olympics.
Yesterday however, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) threatened to lower that flag, when its Executive Board, in a meeting at Lausanne, decided to remove wrestling from the 2020 Olympics. And India’s two-time Olympic medal-winning star grappler Sushil said he felt like the move had put India on the mat. “Aisa lagta hai jaise pachhaad diya hai kisine (it feels as though we have been pinned down)” is how Sushil reacted when MiD DAY called for a reaction to the news of wrestling’s omission from the 2020 Games.
Inevitably, the news sent shockwaves across the wrestling community in a country that prides itself in Olympic wrestling glory. After KD Jadhav won bronze in the sport at the 1952 Helsinki Games, Sushil clinched bronze at Beijing 2008 and followed it up with a silver at London 2012. Yogeshwar Dutt won Indian wrestling’s third Olympic medal with a bronze in London.
Sushil added: “I feel very sad. I also find it difficult to believe that the IOC have decided to drop such an old and famous sport.”
Wrestling goes back to the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, and featured 344 athletes competing across nearly 20 medal events at last year’s London Olympics. The IOC board reviewed the 26 sports on the current Olympic program and decided to eliminate wrestling after studying factors like TV ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping, global popularity etc.
Wrestling will now join seven other sports — baseball & softball (combined bid), karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and Wushu — to fight for just one opening at the 2020 Games. The IOC Executive Board is set to meet in May at St Petersburg, Russia to decide which sports to propose for inclusion at the 2020 Games, and the final vote will be made at an IOC meet in September at Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Though the chances of wrestling making an Olympic comeback seem slim, Sushil is certain it will return. “Given the history of the sport, I’m confident that wrestling will be back into the Olympics when the IOC meets later this year,” he said.
Sushil’s coach Yashweer Singh felt sorry for youngsters taking to the sport.
“I have about 30-35 young wrestlers training under me at the Bawana Sports Complex (in Delhi) with an eye on the 2016 and 2020 Games. We have chalked out a comprehensive training programme for them, but now it all seems to be down the drain.
“Their motivation will be shattered. Though wrestling will continue to be part of the Asian Games and World Championships, the Olympic dream is what matters most,” he said, predicting that his star ward will now be even more motivated to do well at Rio 2016. “The 2016 Games would have anyway been Sushil’s last, but now this announcement will only add to his motivation to do that much better at Rio. Hopefully, he will win gold there and complete his set (of medals),” he said.
WFI oppose IOC
Meanwhile, Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) said they will oppose IOC’s move. “WFI will oppose IOC’s decision and will make all necessary efforts to include wrestling at the 2020 Olympics. The President and Secretary General of WFI are contacting the FILA (wrestling’s world body) President and all other major wrestling nations to discuss this issue with the IOC,” said WFI secretary general Raj Singh in a statement.