President of the Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA), Nenad Lalovic of Serbia, is the key figure pushing for wrestling to remain as a core sport when it comes to the 2020 Olympics and, in a worrying sign for British medal prospects, his sport’s improvements seem to be edging it the right way towards reinclusion following its surprise recommendation for removal earlier this year.
In terms of British hopes, squash is by far the best chance we have of obtaining medals wherever the XXXII Olympiad takes us. We’ve proven to very average at baseball and barely have anyone of note when it comes to wrestling, although import Yana Stadnik did win silver at the European Championships in 2013. Nothing’s set in stone, since world number 3 and 4, James Willstrop and Nick Matthew, will be pushing 40 by the time it comes around in eight years, but there are plenty of young British players further down the ranks who could be challenging the best Egypt have to offer before then.
Unfortunately, wrestling’s exclusion angered a lot of people outside of this country (and even some here, unsurprisingly British Wrestling among them) and that pressure could force the International Olympic Committee (IOC) into saving one of the Games’ oldest sports. President Lalovic, in a post that has appeared on FILA’s Facebook page and at Inside the Games, outlined six key areas in which wrestling has attempted to modernise itself this year:
* At least one female as FILA vice-president
* New FILA Bureau will include 19 elected members, including three seats for women and three seats for active athletes
* FILA will have 15 different Commissions, including new Commissions and restructured existing Commissions
* The Marketing, Sponsorship, TV, Internet and Press Commission will be divided in two – one aimed at marketing and sponsorship and one aimed at media
* Eliminated grappling and amateur mixed martial arts as recognised styles under FILA
* Implemented new rules and begun the process of fashioning a more dynamic and easier to understand sport for the viewing audience to enjoy.
The first two are a bit ridiculous; highlighting that wrestling has advanced far enough from ancient times that they can employ women in important positions shouldn’t be a massive achievement, it should be standard in today’s society. However, the streamlining of the sport to gear it more towards the Olympic disciplines of freestyle and Greco-Roman is a good idea, especially by trimming more “traditional” aspects. The IOC wants modernisation and perhaps it’ll compromise when it comes to one of the world’s oldest spectacles.
Perhaps I’m just bitter. This is a blog about British sport and good news about wrestling in this country is hard to come by. Perhaps I’d show a lot more enthusiasm for the work wrestling has done if we had a superstar in Team GB that could regularly challenge for medals in a sport I don’t understand. It doesn’t sit right with me that we have no homegrown talent, therefore we have to import Eastern Europeans into our programme. The odd one or two naturalised athletes is fine, but when they make up our entire contingent (as was the case for World Championship bronze medallist Olga Butkevych at the London Olympics), it’s not on.
Wrestling doesn’t deserve a place after Rio 2016. It’s had its day and it just doesn’t fit in to today’s idea of a multi-sport festival. I’m all for the change that golf, rugby sevens and potentially squash would bring and something has to give and I’m all for that being one of the convoluted combat sports. I’m all for wrestling getting the boot, for good.