Wrestling Canada 'deeply surprised' sport dropped by IOC
Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, February 12, 2013 6:17AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 12, 2013 11:51PM EST
Wrestling Canada says it is “deeply surprised” by the International Olympic Committee executive board’s decision to drop wrestling from the 2020 Summer Games.
The revelation came Tuesday as the board unveiled the 25 sports it is proposing be included on the 2020 Olympic program. The sport that had been widely considered to be at risk was the modern pentathlon, which has been an Olympic sport since the 1912 Games in Stockholm.
“In an effort to ensure the Olympic Games remain relevant to sports fans of all generations, the Olympic Programme Commission systematically reviews every sport following each edition of the Games,” the IOC said in a statement.
The IOC’s executive board looks at more than three-dozen criteria, including television ratings, ticket sales, popularity and anti-doping policy when choosing which sports should remain on the Olympic program.
The official Olympic website credits wrestling with being the world’s oldest competitive sport next to athletics, dating back to the ancient Olympics in 708 BC.
Greco-Roman wrestling has been part of the modern Olympic era since it began in 1896, with the exception of the 1900 Games. The freestyle category was introduced at the 1920 Games in Antwerp.
Wrestling Canada president Don Ryan said Tuesday the organization hopes the decision can be reversed.
“We are deeply surprised by the recent recommendation of the Executive Board of the IOC to withdraw the sport of wrestling from the Olympic Programme,” Ryan said in a statement.
“Canada’s wrestling programs have been strong and successful at the international level, and posted strong results in the recent Games. We have a strong International Federation (FILA) and we will work closely with them as called upon to lobby and appeal to the IOC Members to reverse this decision that has yet to be ratified by the IOC.”
Canada has two wrestling gold medals, with Daniel Igali winning in Sydney in 2000 and Carol Huynh in Beijing in 2008.
Canada’s Tonya Verbeek won a silver medal at the 2004 Games in Athens, a bronze in Beijing and a silver in London. Huynh won bronze in London.
Huynh took to Twitter to react to the news.
“I can’t believe it,” she tweeted. “I’m shocked.”
Canadian Olympic Committee President Marcel Aubut issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying that while he understands the IOC reviews the Olympic lineup after each Games, “we regret that wrestling may not be a member of the Olympic family in 2020.
“It is disappointing to potentially lose this important sport from the Canadian Olympic Team roster in 2020. Our country has a long tradition of excellence in this sport exemplifying a proud tradition of being best in class.”
The statement went on to encourage Canadian wrestlers to continue working toward the Rio Games in 2016, “and continue to represent the Maple Leaf with pride.”
Wrestling had 18 medal events at last summer’s London Games: seven in Greco-Roman and 11 in freestyle.
Modern pentathlon, meanwhile, includes fending, horseback riding, swimming, running and shooting, the five key skills required of a 19th century cavalry officer. It was invented by Pierre de Coubertin, the French baron who founded the modern Olympic movement.
The sport’s governing body, the UIPM, campaigned to keep it on the docket.
"The Olympic movement always needs history," UIPM president Klaus Schormann told The Associated Press ahead of the decision.
"You cannot just say we look only at the future. You can have a future when you are stable on the basic part of history. We are continuing to develop, to renovate, to be innovative and creative. We are very proud of what we achieved so far and want to deliver this as well for the next generations in 2020."
With one sport gone, the IOC can now add another to the program, and wrestling may yet make it back onto the schedule. It joins a combined bid by baseball and softball as well as karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu to vie for inclusion.
Baseball and softball were the most recent sports to be dropped by the IOC, and have been off the program since the 2008 Beijing Games. The newest additions to the Olympic lineup are golf and rugby, which will be on the schedule at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Representatives from the eight shortlisted sports will make presentations to the IOC’s executive board at a meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia in May. The executive board will then make its recommendation on which sport to include in 2020 at the IOC’s general session in Buenos Aires, Argentina in September.
With files from The Associated Press