IOC leaves Indian wrestling's future in doubt

New Delhi, Feb 12 (IANS) India's wrestling community, including Olympic medal winners Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, was in a state of shock after the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) decision Tuesday to remove the sport from the 2020 edition of the Games.

Sushil, India's only double individual Olympic medallist, said it was a 'Black Day' for the sport at a time when Indian wrestlers were doing good at international events.

"It is a huge setback for the sport. It came as a complete shocker. I cannot believe that IOC can take such a harsh decision about one of the oldest sports in the Olympics," Sushil, who won back-to-back medals in Beijing (bronze) and London (silver), told IANS.

Sushil said the sport will now only go down despite India winning two medals from the sport at the London Games.

"The sport was looking up in India. It had a bright future. Lot of youngsters were taking up the sport, especially after our success at the London Games. But now the blow will take the sport backward in India," said Sushil.

Yogeshwar, who won a silver medal at the London Games, also agreed with Sushil and said IOC's decision will be a big blow for the youngsters.

"I am surprised with IOC's decision because it is played in all the 209 member countries of FILA (international wrestling body). It is also a very spectator-friendly sport. I see no logic behind removing wrestling from 2020," Yogeshwar told IANS.

The 30-year-old said that now the youngsters won't be inspired to take up the sport.

"Why will the youngsters take up wrestling any more? There were so many long-term programmes planned till 2020 and now all will be shelved. There also won't be any government support since wrestling no longer will be an Olympic sport," said Yogeshwar.

Sushil and Yogeshwar's coach Yashvir Singh said it was a 'Black Day' for wrestling but remained hopeful that the sport will be again included in the Olympics.

"It is a Black Day for wrestling. We had already planned for the 2020 Games. We had a pool of 25 wrestlers for the next two Olympics. The government was giving us all support for the Olympics. Now there will be a big question on all these plans if wrestling no longer remains an Olympic sport," said Yashvir.

Wrestling, which includes freestyle and Greco-Roman events, has been a part of the Olympics since the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens in 1896.

Despite being one of the most traditional sports of the Olympics, wrestling has been axed to make way for a new sport to be added to the Olympics that will be decided in May at IOC's meeting in St. Petersburg.

Wrestling lost to taekwondo and modern pentathlon in a close voting held at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne. The sports were rated on 39 different criteria including television ratings and ticket sales based on the 2012 London Games.

At the London Games, 344 wrestlers competed in 11 medal events in freestyle and seven in Greco-Roman.

Wrestling, which is the national sport of Iran, will now have to fight it out with other sports like softball and baseball, squash, karate, sport climbing, wakeboarding, wushu and rollersports for pitching its case for inclusion in the Olympics in May.

The changes will be ratified in September during the full session of the IOC in Buenos Aires.

India have won four Olympic medals from wrestling. Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav was the first Indian wrestler to win an Olympic medal, a bronze, in the 1952 Helsinki Games.

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