Wrestling may be the world’s oldest sport, but it won’t be an Olympic sport after 2016.
In a decision that surprised many, the International Olympic Committee retained modern pentathlon but dropped wrestling from its roster of 25 core sports.
“This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “In the view of the executive board, this was the best program for the Olympic Games in 2020. It’s not a case of what’s wrong with wrestling, it is what’s right with the 25 core sports.”
Wrestling was one of nine sports featured in the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896; it was also part of ancient Olympics.
While wrestling will join seven other sports in vying for the inclusion as an additional sport in 2020, it’s extremely unlikely the IOC would add a sport it just dropped, experts said. The board is more likely to choose one of the other seven sports up for consideration: baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu.
Americans have won 124 medals in wrestling, including four by women (freestyle women’s wrestling was added in 2004), more than any other country.
Olympic wrestlers say they’ll fight for their sport.
“It’s obviously one of my worst nightmares,” Dan Gable, 1972 Olympic freestyle wrestling champion, told USA Today. “It’s surprising just from the standpoint that it’s a pretty strong sport worldwide.”
The IOC says its Olympic Programme Commission “systematically reviews every sport following each edition of the Games…in an effort to ensure the Olympic Games remain relevant to sports fans of all generations.
Golf and rugby will join the Olympics in 2016.
“I think this is a really stupid decision,” Olympic historian David Wallechinsky told The New York Times. “It was in the ancient Olympics. It has been in the modern Olympics since 1896. In London, 29 different countries won medals. This is a popular sport.”
Photo: Jacob Stephen Varner of the United States in action against Valerii Andriitsev of Ukraine during the Men’s Freestyle 96 kg Wrestling gold medal fight on Day 16 of the London Olympics. Credit: Getty Images