India’s 2020 Olympic medal hopes might as well be on the mat. Wrestling, an Olympic sport since the first Games in ancient Greece, looks set to be dropped from the 2020 edition.
In a surprise move, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that met in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Tuesday voted to remove the sport from the 2020 programme.
Wrestling now joins a list of seven other candidate sports battling for one spot on the programme. It is unlikely, however, that it will get back in. The IOC session in Buenos Aires in September will still need to ratify the decision.
The move came as a shock. Wrestling has not only given India its first individual Olympic medal in 1952, it has also made the country a force to reckon with in the global arena.
Success at Olympics has made wrestling popular. It has earned India four of its 24 Olympic medals — two were won in London last year when silver medallist Sushil Kumar became the first Indian to win back-to-back individual medals. Friend Yogeshwar Dutt brought home a bronze.
The vote was a major surprise after other sports, including modern pentathlon, were seen at risk of losing out on the Olympics due to lower global appeal.
Understandably, the grapplers are upset. "It's a shocking piece of news. I'm still to come to terms with the fact that the sport might not be part of the 2020 Games," said Kumar. "Going by the improvement we have shown, we could have been in contention for the largest medal haul in wrestling in 2020." Popularity and Olympic medals have brought money to the sport and its practitioners.
"Now, every wrestler trains keeping the Olympics in mind. It's a huge dampener for us," said Geeta Phogat, the only Indian woman wrestler to compete in the London Olympics. Secretary general of the Wrestling Federation of India Raj Singh said he was confident that the sport would be back after the IOC's September meet.
With agency inputs