U.S. Olympic gold medalists Tom Brands, Dan Gable and John Smith were among members of the wrestling community who have weighed in on the International Olympic Committee Executive Board’s decision Wednesday to include the sport on a shortlist for consideration for the 2020 Olympics.
Wrestling, which had been eliminated as a core sport by the IOC in February, is now on a shortlist — along with squash and a combined baseball-softball bid — for one open spot for the 2020 and 2024 Olympics, which will be determined by the entire IOC membership in September.
“It was great news today for Olympic wrestling,” said Smith, two-time Olympic gold medalist (1988, 1992) and head wrestling coach at Oklahoma State, which will be hosting the 2013 World Team Trials June 21-22. “I’m very proud of our committees around the world, especially the Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling, for quickly coming together to push wrestling forward.”
“There’s a lot of work to do,” said Brands, University of Iowa head coach and gold medal winner at the 1996 Olympics. “I think our wrestling strategy is probably going to change a little bit now. The first step was to get into this round, and now it’s to rise above the group.”
“There may be a couple different options, but we don’t want to leave anything to chance,” Brands continued. “We have to continue to be diplomatic, do things right, and enhance the improvements that we’ve made. We need to keep showing the IOC that we’re in line with their way of thinking and their philosophies.”
Gable, former Iowa Hawkeye coach who earned his gold medal at the 1972 Olympics, said, “The rules changes have really brought us together, and it’s the first time that we’ve actually thought about the total sport instead of which rule is good for which country.”
Two weeks ago, the international wrestling federation FILA made some significant rule changes to make the sport more exciting and appealing to fans. In addition, FILA opened up new opportunities for women in governance and in competition, providing an equal number of weight classes for both men and women in Olympic freestyle competition.
One wrestler who could benefit from these recently implemented changes is Adeline Gray, who served as an alternate for the U.S. women’s freestyle team at the 2012 London Olympics.
“It’s a real relief,” said Gray, who wrestled on the boys’ team at her Colorado high school. “We can’t take the total sigh, but I am excited by the fact that we made the final three, knowing that we can go on and continue to fight. We still need to prove that we belong in the Olympics.”
“This tells us we are doing some good things,” according to Gable. “Now it’s important you don’t let up. You must realize that some of these sports have been working for a long time. Squash has really been doing their homework, and because of that they are probably politically doing a better job than we are because we just started doing this three months ago.”
Don Ryan, president of Wrestling Canada, the national governing organization for the sport in Canada, expressed a sense of relief that many in the world’s wrestling community shared Wednesday.
“Eight sports were on the ballot for this first vote, and we are thrilled to see wrestling as one of the three moving on to the final round,” said Don Ryan, president of Wrestling Canada, the national governing organization for the sport in Canada. “We have not won the battle yet, we must continue as a community to persevere in our efforts.”
“To put it in terms of wrestling, we’ve won the first round,” Ryan continued. “We must now win the second round to claim victory, and that won’t be so easy. The race will be tight and everyone will show up ready to fight.”
See what’s been going on with wrestling at the Olympics… click here for a list of College Wrestling Examiner’s Olympic wrestling stories.
Get the big picture on changes to Olympic wrestling. Amateur Wrestling News’ Jason Bryant provides a detailed analysis of FILA’s proposed changes for both freestyle and Greco, written BEFORE FILA’s Extraordinary Congress on Saturday… and the Des Moines Register’s Andy Hamilton writes about wrestling’s new rules, including a PDF file of a FILA document outlining the changes.
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