Medalists urged to lobby for wrestling

Medalists urged to lobby for wrestling

TOKYO - Agence France-Presse
Medalists urged to lobby for wrestling

This file photo shows Cuba’s Gustavo Balart (L) competing with South Korea’s Choi Gyu-jin during 55-kg Greco-Roman competition at the London Olympics. AP photo

Japanese wrestling chiefs yesterday urged Olympic medalists the world over to join forces to save their sport from the chop at the 2020 Games.

Tomiaki Fukuda, vice president of the international wrestling federation FILA, said in Tokyo he had proposed the lobbying plan in letters to all executives of the organization.

The medalists, including three-time Olympic champions Alexander Karelin of Russia and Saori Yoshida of Japan, are being asked to gather in the Russian city of St. Petersburg when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board meets on May 26-31.

“I have proposed that they lobby the IOC executives and hold rallies to state our case there,” Fukuda, also president of the Japan Wrestling Federation, told a news conference. “We have been insufficient in lobbying the IOC. Russia has promised to mobilize all medalists, including Karelin,” he said.

Fukuda said he had also proposed the heads of all 180 national wrestling federations write a letter to IOC president Jacques Rogge asking him to help keep the sport part of the Games.

Earlier this month the 15-member IOC executive voted to drop wrestling from the Olympic program. The sport has been part of every modern Olympics, apart from in 1900.

It will remain on the program for 2016 in Rio de Janeiro but faces a fight against seven other sports for inclusion in 2020.

The St. Petersburg meeting is expected to narrow the number of sports -- possibly to three -- that should be put forward to the 100-plus IOC members in Buenos Aires in September when they select just one survivor for 2020.

The other sports are baseball and softball, squash, karate, roller sports, wakeboarding, sport climbing and the Chinese martial art of wushu.

Representatives of these sports are due to make presentations to the board. Yoshida, who won the women’s 55kg freestyle gold at last year’s London Games for a record 13th straight Olympic or world championship title, told the same news conference that she might go to St. Petersburg.

“I started wrestling after seeing it in the Olympics on television. There are children who started wrestling after they saw me competing,” she said. “I want to cooperate with the presentation in an effort not to destroy children’s dreams.” 

Fukuda returned from FILA’s weekend executive meeting in the Thai resort of Phuket where Switzerland’s Raphael Martinetti was ousted as its president after being largely held to blame for the sport’s misfortune.

Nenad Lalovic of Serbia was appointed acting president until September. Fukuda said Martinetti was ousted in a 11-10 vote.

“There was an overwhelming criticism against him for not attending the IOC executive board meeting or lobbying aggressively,” he said.