Reforms can rescue wrestling, FILA hopes
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
Unitd States freestyle wrestler Kyle Dake (top) takes down Iran’s Hassan Tahmasebi during competition at an international wrestling competition in New York. AP photoThe widespread reforms introduced to the historic sport of wrestling gives it a very strong chance of regaining its place in the Olympics, the newly-elected president of the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA), Nenad Lalovic, told AFP.
The 55-year-old Serb has been the driving force behind the changes both to the rules and the statute since replacing Raphael Martinetti who resigned following the surprise decision in February by the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee to drop the sport from the 2020 Games.
A keen yachtsman, he told Angerce France-Presse in an interview conducted by telephone from FILA headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, that wrestling had resurfaced after a terrible period.
“When you sink it is only when you hit the bottom that you can rise again,” said Lalovic. “We (wrestling) have proved that. We are now super positive after taking a terrible blow.” Wrestling, which is one of the few sports to have transcended both the ancient Olympics and the modern Games, will face the first hurdle at regaining their spot on May 29.
IOC Board to meet early September
The IOC Executive Board meets in St Petersburg, Russia, to decide which sports to recommend to the wider IOC membership at its Session in Buenos Aires in early September with eight sports up for consideration.
Wrestling, though, is widely expected to make the short list with squash the closest rival having fought an effective campaign.
However, Lalovic, who among other things has forced through a measure where there will be a woman vice-president for the first time when new elections are held next year, said he is confident they will prevail in the final showdown.
“I am confident. I believe strongly we will succeed, though, of course it’s always possible one can lose.
“We have introduced reforms and now we have to use those to regain our place. We must put on a good presentation next week and then hopefully prepare for September.
“By then we will have applied the new rules in test competitions.” Lalovic said it would take time for coaches and referees to adapt to the new rules planned for the sport. Instead of the three two-minute periods now there will be two three minute periods with more spectator friendly attacking wrestling being rewarded - this will be put to the test at the world junior championships in Sofia in August.
“This will give us the opportunity to show the IOC members in Buenos Aires how the rule changes have made a difference and aroused the interest of the spectators and the media,” he said.
“Small federations need time to digest such significant changes as opposed to large federations for whom it is easier. We have a huge amount of work to do but we will do it as quickly as possible.”
Lalovic said the fact that wrestling authorities from bitter political enemies and powerhouses of the sport such as Iran and the United States had joined forces showed how much the sport’s exclusion had provoked such a united reaction.
Indeed wrestlers from Iran, the United States and Russia recently came together at the United Nations to promote the sport and then competed against each other at Grand Central Station with the Iranians thumping the Americans in their match.
“That is the magic of sport,” said Lalovic, referring to the unity being shown.
“We had fallen into a crisis, the Federation was not strong and we were asleep, but everyone came together from all corners of the world and realized that united we could pull ourselves out of it. “Now we are wide awake.” Lalovic insists that win or lose the fight will go on.
“If we lose in September then the very next day we will begin the battle to regain our place in the Olympic Games,” he said. “The morale of a wrestler is a very specific thing. We can be thrown onto the mat but there is no such thing in our psyche as a knockout.”