Wrestling seeks re­prieve, as chief steps down

World fed­er­a­tion leader quits, per­haps boost­ing hope for 2020 in­clu­sion

The Washington Post Sunday - - WPSPORTS - BY RAJ MO­HAN VISWANATHAN

PHUKET, THAI­LAND — The pres­i­dent of the in­ter­na­tional wrestling fed­er­a­tion quit on Satur­day in the wake of the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee’s de­ci­sion to re­move the sport from the 2020 Games.

Raphael Martinetti’s res­ig­na­tion was an­nounced at the FILA ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meet­ing in Phuket. The Swiss had been in the po­si­tion since 2002.

On Tues­day, the ex­ec­u­tive board of the IOC dumped wrestling from the list of sports guar­an­teed a berth in fu­ture Sum­mer Olympics, mean­ing it must com­pete with other fringe sports for a spot on the pro­gram.

FILA mem­ber Ne­nad Lalovic, who has as­sumed an in­terim pres­i­dency role, con­firmed at a news con­fer­ence that Martinetti’s res­ig­na­tion was be­cause of the IOC’s de­ci­sion.

“It was dif­fi­cult for a pres­i­dent who wasn’t pow­er­ful for 11 years when the IOC de­cided to elim­i­nate his sport from the Olympic Games,” said Lalovic, adding the new pres­i­dent will soon be elected at an ex­tra­or­di­nary congress.

Lalovic said the bid to re­store wrestling to the Olympic pro- gram would be­gin im­me­di­ately.

“Ev­ery one of us will have a duty. We have only one goal — that is to be back on the Olympics. Lob­by­ing is very im­por­tant but it’s not some­thing that you can’t de­ter­mine in ad­vance,” Lalovic said. “We have to pre­pare a se­ri­ous pre­sen­ta­tion that must be pre­pared by pro­fes­sion­als to present the real pic­ture of our sport. This sport has been prac­ticed by mil­lions . . . We will use this fact in or­der to pro­mote our sport.”

Now wrestling is no longer a core Olympic sport, it must com­pete with seven other con­tenders — base­ball and soft­ball, squash, karate, wake­board­ing, sport climb­ing, roller sports and the mar­tial art of wushu — in lob­by­ing to earn the last spot on the 28-sport pro­gram for the 2020 Olympics, which have yet to be awarded to a host city.

The IOC ex­ec­u­tive board will meet in May in St. Peters­burg, to choose which sports to pro­pose for in­clu­sion in 2020. The fi­nal vote will be made at the IOC gen­eral as­sem­bly in Septem­ber in Buenos Aires.

USA Wrestling Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Rich Ben­der paid trib­ute to Martinetti but said his de­par­ture could boost chances of get­ting back on the Olympic pro­gram.

“This de­ci­sion pro­vides in­ter­na­tional wrestling with an op­por­tu­nity to change and im­prove,” Ben­der said in a state­ment on USA Wrestling’s Web site. “The sport will now be able to cre­ate a fresh new re­la­tion­ship with the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee and ad­dress some of the press­ing chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties fac­ing wrestling.”

Alexan­der Mami­ashvili, the head of the Rus­sian wrestling fed­er­a­tion, wants the FILA ex­tra­or­di­nary congress to be held in Moscow in May and said Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin had or­dered a com­mit­tee be formed to con­test the IOC de­ci­sion.

“The group will co­or­di­nate and an­a­lyze the sit­u­a­tion to prove wrestling is wor­thy of stay­ing in the Olympic move­ment,” Mami­ashvili told the Itar-TASS news agency of a com­mit­tee that will in­clude the sports min­is­ter and all three Rus­sian IOC mem­bers. “The lead­er­ship of the coun­try, and per­son­ally the pres­i­dent of Rus­sia, has ex­pressed to us their sup­port.”

FILA Vice Pres­i­dent Stan Dziedzic said he knows what wrestling needs to do.

“We need a bet­ter pub­lic-re­la­tions firm, we need to have a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship with the IOC, ob­vi­ously. Those are right on top of the ta­ble,” he said. “We have to tell the world that there is no other sport that is more of a mer­i­toc­racy than wrestling. No bats, no balls, no gloves. It’s not how fast, how far, how high — but how much bet­ter.

“Two equal size wrestlers ground on the mat to de­ter­mine who the best is, with the wits and the will to win. Noth­ing could be more fun­da­men­tal.”

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