Brookhaven and Chamblee school wrestling coaches say last week’s decision by the International Olympics Committee to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympics was based on politics, not athletics.
“The decision to drop wrestling from the Olympics was a real blind side hit to the wrestling community,” said Michael McQuary, an assistant wrestling coach at Marist. “ I believe it was a decision based on politics - the saving of Modern Penthalon by a well-connected IOC board member - and not based on the popularity of the sport.”
The committee agreed to pare down the 26 sports it features to 25 so that a new sport could join the lineup in 2020. Wrestling has a chance to make it back into the Olympics, but the Los Angeles Times said that was unlikely now that it has been cut.
“It’s a tragedy; it’s disgusting,” said Adam Winkler, head wrestling coach at Chamblee High School. “To think that there are Olympic sports like rhythmic gymnastics and they’re going to cut the oldest sport of all, a sport that was pictured on Egyptian tombs 4,000 years ago, is sad.”
Wrestling in the Olympics started with the ancient Games in 708 B.C., and became a staple of the modern Olympics, beginning in Athens, Greece in 1896.
But a report by the IOC program commission said TV ratings and ticket sales are among the criteria used by the panel, according to ESPN.
“This is a real opportunity and wake up call for the International wrestling governing board to make some necessary bold steps to increase the sport's attractiveness for spectators and participants,” McQuary said.
Winker said he lives the sport of wrestling.
“This may not be a high-revenue-generating sport, but there is no other sport that teaches character development and persistence,” he said. “You will never see a fist fight at a wrestling match. This is a life-changing sport. We love it, but it seems like no one else cares about this sport.”
Winkler stressed that the IOC’s decision isn’t final, and that he’s “99 percent sure that wrestling is going to get back in.
“Wrestling is one of Russia’s top sports, and they’re not going to tolerate the decision,” Winker said.
But McQuary isn’t so sure.
“Wrestling faces stiff competition from several other sports who are trying to get added in 2020, and without these changes it is probably not going to get back on the list,” he said.
Among the sports being kept in the Olympics is modern pentathlon, a combination of fencing, horse riding, swimming, running and shooting. It has been an Olympic sport since 1912.
At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, 71 countries participated in wrestling, while just 26 nations competed in modern pentathlon.