The sport of wrestling faces its toughest test to date on Sunday at the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) 125th Session in Buenos Aires, Argentina when the full membership will choose between wrestling, squash and baseball/softball for a spot in the 2020 Olympic Games.
However, the poster boy of Indian wrestling, Sushil Kumar, is supremely confident the sport will be back in the Olympic fold. “I am confident that IOC will bring wrestling back. During the IOC Executive Board meet (in St Petersburg on May 29), wrestling made the short list by winning eight votes out of 15 in the first round itself.
“Also, the worldwide outcry that followed IOC’s move to exclude the sport from the list of core sports in February and the support the media has shown since then gives me this confidence,” the London Olympic silver medallist told MiD DAY yesterday.
“The Olympics will be incomplete without wrestling. Like athletics, the sport is an integral part of the Olympic Games,” he added. Indian wrestlers have won four medals so far at the Olympics, right from KD Jadhav’s bronze at the 1952 Helsinki Games. Considering that India has only 13 individual medals to its credit, it’s not hard to see why wrestling’s exclusion will be devastating for the nation.
In an interview with
MiD DAY earlier, Kumar had recounted how he and London Olympics bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt went around the country convincing young grapplers not to give up on the sport after IOC’s decision in February.
“The motivation levels and enthusiasm among our wrestlers, especially kids who were training with an eye on the 2020 Olympics, had completely gone down. India would have been the worst affected country (if that happened) as wrestling has seen us win three medals in the last two Olympics.
So, Yogeshwar and I visited a number of akharas and wrestling centers assuring kids that the sport will be back,” the 2008 Beijing bronze winner explained.
Since its exclusion, the sport, which has featured in every modern Olympic Games except in 1900, has made sweeping changes in rules in a bid to make the sport more attractive to spectators and broadcasters.
Wrestling matches will now consist of two three-minute sessions instead of three two-minute periods, and scoring will be cumulative instead of the previous best-of-three system.
Wrestling will also add two more weight classes to women’s freestyle event at the expense of one weight class in men’s freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.