Olympic medal winning wrestlers Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt on Thursday started a public awareness campaign, ‘Push for wrestling’, to retain the sport in the 2020 Games.
In the presence of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and Asian Games gold-winning wrestler Satpal, the two Olympic medallists literally pushed a truck to launch the campaign. The truck would travel across Punjab, Haryana and Delhi to gather public opinion in favour of the sport’s stay in the Olympics.
“Wrestling is an ancient sport. I strongly believe that it will remain in the Olympics,” said Sushil.
“We will be one of the biggest losers if wrestling is excluded from the Olympics. Countries like the USA and Russia have achieved a lot in the sport. But we are a rising country and it will hamper our growth,” said the two-time Olympic medallist in the 66kg freestyle class.
Yogeshwar, who claimed a 60kg freestyle bronze medal in his third Olympics in London, was emotional while pitching in for the cause.
“We have given everything to wrestling. Olympics will have no meaning for me if wrestling is taken out of it.”
Asked if Indian wrestlers, like some international grapplers, were planning to return their Olympics medals as a mark of protest, Yogeshwar said, “If that will help wrestling stay in the Games, I will return my medal.”
Elsewhere in Lausanne, International Wrestling Federation (FILA) acting president Nenad Lalovic met International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jaques Rogge on Thursday as part of the wrestling fraternity’s effort to remain in the Olympic programme.
After Raphael Martineti’s resignation from the post of FILA president following the IOC executive board’s vote to exclude wrestling on February 12, the international federation has been gathering suggestions and trying to address concerns expressed by the IOC.
Apart from making structural changes in the organisation, the FILA launched a few initiatives to enhance the sport’s appeal. These included, adding athletes to the FILA Bureau and increasing women’s participation at all levels of the sport.
The FILA also wants to conduct a review of the wrestling rules to make the sport more understandable and attractive to spectators and less dependent upon subjective officiating. It will also review the presentation of the sport with an aim to modernising the competition format.