Thursday, February 14, 2013

Grappling with the International Olympic Committee's Decision to Drop Wrestling

by Drew Martin
Wrestling is the most disciplined sport. You know who I used to hear say that all the time? – the tough guys in high school who played football in the fall and then wrestled in the winter. I wrestled for eight years; from second grade through my sophomore year in high school before I switched to winter track for that season. If you ask me about running, I will start by talking about wrestling, which is what turned me into a runner. I used to run after practice with plastic wrap around my waist to stay in my weight class. I hated the sport at times. It was pure torture some years, especially my last year when I had to drop thirty pounds (because I gained forty pounds between seasons). The workouts were grueling. Some kids wore rubber suits to sweat even more than we naturally did in that windowless, brick-oven-of-a-room where "No Pain No Gain" was painted on the wall. The backs of my hands are still covered with little scars from when they got caught on kids’ braces. Punishment was tough. Once my brother and I left a meet in order to have dinner with our parents; we each got a 100 crabs. A crab meant to scurry back and forth across the wrestling room floor on your hands and feet (like a crab) while the rest of the team watched during a break from practice.

Despite anything negative I have to say about the wrestling, I still think of it as one of the most classic sports. It is all about core strength, which is ironic because it has been dropped from the list of 25 core sports for the 2020 Olympics. The LA Times wrote this in reaction to the announcement:

The sport many people believed should have been dropped, modern pentathlon, survived. How could this be? Well, this might be a clue: Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., the son of the former IOC president, is vice president of the International Modern Pentathlon Union and a member of the IOC board….Many of the unhappy people don't even know what events make up the modern pentathlon. The sport was created because it features, get this, the skills required of a cavalry officer….in the 19th century!….At the London Games, athletes from 71 countries competed in wrestling. Athletes from 26 countries competed in modern pentathlon. Isn't worldwide appeal supposed to be one of the factors considered by the IOC?

It is hard to imagine that one of the sports which was central to the original Olympics and has been in the modern Olympics for more than 100 years is going to sit on the sidelines while "Olympians" compete in events such as canoeing, speed walking, synchronized swimming, golf, and ping-pong.