IOWA CITY – The change came at the last moment to make an impact.
A moratorium approached for groups from wrestling, squash and baseball/softball trying to persuade the International Olympic Committee to include its sport in the 2020 Olympic Games. FILA, the international governing body for wrestling, made a bold proposition to improve gender equity, making one more gesture to prove the sport has taken great strides to meet the expectations of the IOC Executive Board, which motioned to remove wrestling as a core sport in February.
IOC is meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, currently, and will vote on a provisional sport for 2020, as well as that year’s host city and a new IOC President to replace Jacques Rogge, who is at the end of a 12-year term. The vote on the fate of wrestling, squash and baseball/softball is expected to be announce Sunday morning.
The IOC agreed to changed the number of weight classes competed for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, increasing women’s freestyle classes to six and cutting one weight class each from men’s freestyle and Greco-Roman a little more than a month ago. The sport will still have 18 competed weights, but now each discipline will vie for medals in six divisions.
Cornell College Coach and USA Wrestling Board Committee Member Mike Duroe said the timing was crucial. A move needed to be made leading up to a three-week no-contact period. Baseball/softball and squash tried to stop it, expecting it to make an impact.
“FILA made the decision to make this proposal to really appear to make some major changes,” Duroe said. “We made major changes to the rules a few months ago and now we’ve made some major changes to gender equity. It’s a strong move and one that will be looked at favorably by IOC.”
It isn’t the first time the sport has seen participation numbers change. In 1996, discussions began to bring in women’s wrestling. Men’s freestyle and Greco-Roman dropped from 10 to eight weights for the hope women’s competition would start in 2000. Four weights of women’s wrestling was added in 2004 when FILA was asked to drop to seven weights for each men’s discipline in the Olympics.
The original suggestion by FILA was for seven weights in each division, according to Duroe. A limit on the Olympic Games, attempting to contain the number of sports and athletes, led to the modification. Duroe, who has coached men and women in international competition, said the move was necessary for the sport to remain a viable choice for Olympic programme. Consider it a necessary evil to cut from one segment and add to another for the betterment of the sport.
“Nobody in men’s freestyle and Greco-Roman likes losing a weight, especially coaches and athletes,” Duroe said. “At the end of the day, adding two weight classes to women was a great move.”
The move may lead to more changes in the future. The weights will affect other international competition, however, the possibility of having more weights outside the Olympics remains. Duroe said it is likely the Olympic weights will be set and additional weights will be created.
“Our World Championships can have seven or eight classes, which I think will happen,” Duroe said. “That’s up to FILA and how big they want it to be at the World Championships.”
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