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Japan wrestling head not ready to give up fight

Kyodo

Japan Wrestling Federation President Tomiaki Fukuda on Wednesday called into question the International Olympic Committee’s decision to drop wrestling from the 2020 Games, saying the sport’s governing body has failed to give “clear reasons” for why wrestling is being removed.

Fukuda said the fight to keep wrestling in the Olympics was far from over.

“The final verdict has not been made on whether it will be removed. Everything will depend on our efforts and actions from now,” said Fukuda, who is also vice president for FILA, wrestling’s world governing body. “We have been in the Olympics from the start, so there was always the feeling of reassurance that it was a key sport.”

Wrestling was removed from the IOC’s list of 25 “core sports” for the games in 2020, which have yet to be awarded to a host city. Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul are bidding for the 2020 Summer Games.

The IOC executive board will meet in May in St. Petersburg, Russia, to decide which sport or sports to propose for 2020 inclusion before the final vote is made at the IOC general assembly in September in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The IOC’s executive board shocked the world’s wrestling community, whose sport dates back to the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, with its vote to cut the sport on Tuesday.

Wrestling now joins seven other sports in applying for 2020, among them a joint bid from baseball and softball, squash, karate, roller sports, wakeboarding, sports climbing and the martial art wushu.

However, it is extremely unlikely it will be voted back in so early after being removed by the IOC’s executive board.

FILA is scheduled to hold an executive conference in Phuket this Saturday and Sunday to address the issue in view of building a case to present to the IOC board in May.

“We’re getting a late start. Unless we exert an enormous amount of energy it will be difficult to rebound from this,” Fukuda said.

Fukuda questioned an evaluation done by the IOC program commission that analyzed 39 criteria, including TV ratings, ticket sales, antidoping policy and global participation and popularity. Wrestling was apparently ranked “low” in several technical criteria.

“No clear reasons have been presented. I also question whether the figures they have are correct,” Fukuda said.

Something that has not been explained, however, is how modern pentathlon survived the four rounds of secret balloting among 14 members, excluding IOC president Jacques Rogge, despite being considered the most likely to be dropped.

Members vote each time on which sports should not be included in the core group; wrestling and modern pentathlon were tied for five to top the first round, but wrestling received seven, six and eight for the most in each of the final three rounds.

Modern pentathlon, which along with wrestling and field hockey, was left in the final round, curiously received votes of five, four, five and three — its final vote having two fewer than its first.

Wrestling has been a rich source of Olympic medals for Japan in the women’s competition and three-time Olympic champion Saori Yoshida was still in trying to come to terms with the IOC’s decision.

“There are a lot of children who want to win medals at the Olympics and this (decision) will end their dreams,” she said.

Three of four wrestling golds in London last summer came in the women’s division from Yoshida (55 kg) and Kaori Icho (63 kg), both of whom made it Olympic three-peats, and Hitomi Obara (48 kg).

“I thought it was a joke (when I heard the news),” said now-retired Obara. “For athletes, not having a goal to work toward is tougher than losing.”

Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu in London became the first Japanese man to win Olympic gold in wrestling since 1988, when he capped a string of impressive results to take the 66-kg freestyle title.

“I don’t know what goal to aim for now. I have to just keep trying my best in competition,” he said.

  • Masa Chekov

    This ridiculous decision just shows how much of a joke the IOC has become.

    Wrestling is out, synchronized swimming in.

    Wrestling is out, BMX is in.

    Stupid.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mattogaijin Matt Anderson

      I completely agree. I also can’t see how Modern Pentathlon might rate highly (other than antidoping policy, I guess) in any of the categories mentioned in the article. It looks like they are trying to compete with the World X Games. Tradition be damned. Good to see there seems to be a global outcry over this decision.

  • Mike Wyckoff

    As much as I’m disappointed to see wrestling go, perhaps Softball will return, a sport in which Japan is a contender.

  • Equalizer

    Obviously, Japan’s protests are understandable. Personally, I cannot imagine how the IOC members could even THINK about dropping a sport that is at the origin of the creation of the Olympic Games. Are these guys not supposed to be the guardians of tradition? Are these guys really that dumb?!?

  • gnirol

    What the Olympics doesn’t need are sports like golf and rugby, which it is adding in 2016, while removing wrestling in favor of…wakeboarding? Wushu? in 2020. Golf is still a game basically for the rich (gobs of Paraguayans and Uzbeks in the PGA, aren’t there?) while rugby is yet another team sport requiring many stadia in order to award one gold medal at the end of a mostly boring tournament as lousy teams go up against the few great teams in the world in the early rounds. The whole point, of course, is to increase viewership in the US, UK, Japan, Korea and a few other countries for golf and to sell hundreds of thousands of rugby tickets to Olympic fans who can’t get tickets to anything else. Now wrestling: what venues do you need? One decent sized university gym with three mats and some electronic scoreboards. That’s it. We have beach volleyball so viewers can see skimpily clad young people bouncing around on the sand. Maybe the female wrestlers (just got added to the Games and are now being subtracted) should wear bikinis. Bring GLOW to the Olympics! Not saying that any of the sports I have mentioned are not exciting, but so is wrestling. Clearly, it’s not a matter of sports, but of revenue, as if the billions they already charge for broadcast rights and sponsorships are not enough.