In a statement, the governing body vowed to fight what it called the “aberration” of the announcement, which came following a meeting of the IOC’s 15-strong executive board in Lausanne. Wrestling will now become one of eight sports – along with squash, karate and baseball/softball – bidding for inclusion in the 2020 Games, with a decision due at the IOC Congress in September.
IOC communications director Mark Adams said: “This is not what’s wrong with wrestling, it’s what’s right about the other 25 core sports. This process is about looking to renew the Olympic Games and the executive board made their decision based on their experience.”
News of the exclusion came as a shock to the wrestling community, with modern pentathlon and taekwondo having been considered two sports at greater risk. A statement on the governing body’s website read: “FILA was greatly astonished by today’s recommendation of the IOC executive board not to maintain wrestling among the 25 core sports for the 2020 Olympic Games. FILA will take all necessary measures to convince the IOC executive board and IOC members of the aberration of such [a] decision against one of the founding sports of the ancient and modern Olympic Games.”
Great Britain had only one wrestler, Ukraine-born Olga Butkevych, at London 2012 after losing all its UK Sport funding due to a lack of medal chances.
Butkevych said yesterday: “I am disappointed to hear the IOC’s decision. I would like to do my best for Team GB at 2016 but it is going to be a real challenge.”
Great Britain has won two post-War wrestling medals, the last a bronze for light-heavyweight Noel Loban in Los Angeles in 1984. British Wrestling chief executive Colin Nicholson said: “Wrestling proved very popular in London and it has a very wide appeal across the world.”
There was relief for modern pentathlon which had been widely tipped to face expulsion. GB Modern Pentathlon chief executive Jon Archer said: “This absolutely secures the future of sport, not just at an Olympic level but also in giving us the opportunity to develop and get more people involved. Olympic inclusion is absolutely essential to our sport.”
GREAT Britain’s Olympic medal haul has not exactly been threatened by the International Olympic Committee’s recommendation that wrestling be removed from the 2020 Games.
Noel Loban became one of only two post-War British wrestling medallists when he claimed bronze in the freestyle light-heavyweight category in Los Angeles in 1984. Ken Richmond, a former whaling ship crewman who later found fame as the Adonis banging the gong at the start of Rank films, had previously won heavyweight bronze in 1952.
Wrestling was part of the first modern games in 1896 when it staged a single Greco-Roman category which was won by Germany’s Carl Schuhmann.
Four athletes competed, including Britain’s Launceston Elliot, who finished last. Elliot – an inductee to the Scottish Sport Hall of Fame – did win gold in the one-hand lift as well as silver in the two-hand lift, ran in the 100m and was last in the rope-climbing. With the exception of 1900, wrestling has been a permanent fixture of the Olympic Games, with women’s wrestling added for the first time in 2004.
The sport was dominated by the Soviet Union, who lead the all-time medals table with 62 golds.
Japan and Iran each claimed a total of six medals at London 2012. Great Britain’s only wrestler in London, Ukraine-born Olga Butkevych, exited early but went on to win a bronze medal in the 59kg freestyle at the World Championships in Canada.
Wrestling was restored to the Commonwealth Games programme for Delhi in 2010 and will remain in place for Glasgow next year. Myroslav Dykun won Greco-Roman gold for England in Delhi, while there was also silver for Terence Bosson and bronze for Leon Rattigan and Sasha Masyarchyk.