News

Australian wrestling celebrates

9 September 2013

WRESTLING: The Australian wrestling community is celebrating its return to the Olympic program for the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games.

Wrestling wrangled ahead of its competitors with 49 votes from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members at the IOC Session in Buenos Aires on Sunday. The ancient sport was a clear winner ahead of the combined softball/baseball pitch with 24 votes and squash with 22 votes.

Back in Australia the news was music to the ears of Australia’s London 2012 representative Farzad Tarash.

“For us, this news about wrestling is just perfect,” Tarash said. “For wrestlers, the Olympic Games are the absolute pinnacle of our sport.”

In training for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Tarash hoped he would not be a part of wrestling’s final Olympic appearance.

“It was really exciting news,” he said. “I was watching it live and it was news that I feel we really deserved. Wrestling was in the ancient Games and it was a complete shock to us when it was dropped.

“But just as athletes compete on the wrestling mat, we never gave up. We kept up hope.”

Tarash stressed how important the Olympic Games are for inspiring a new generation of wrestlers.

“If there were no Olympics, they wouldn’t have hope and there wouldn’t be a reason to train. The younger generations would simply stop competing.”

The sport was charged with increasing female participation, becoming more modern and more appealing to a worldwide audience as well as dealing with allegations of corruption within the international federation.

Importantly, fundamental changes were made to the rules of the sport, in order for it to be more appealing to spectators.

“The rules that have changed have made the sport much more aggressive – it’s now much more interesting to watch,” Tarash said.

“It used to be much more tactical before, but now there is a lot more happening. You can’t back off at all.”

Vice President of Wrestling Australia, John Saul, highlighted how important the decision was.

“What can I say? I am very, very happy,” Vice President of Wrestling Australia, John Saul said.

“It’s satisfying to see that the IOC has rewarded the changes that the sport has made with such a resounding vote.”

Saul has been a strong proponent for the sport since it was dropped as one of the Games’ 25 core sports in February this year.

“It is a great indicator that we can work together,” Saul said of the changes made to the sport on an international level.

“It shows we can work critically to see where we have gone wrong and make improvements for the good of the sport. What we have come up with is a pretty good recipe.”

Women’s events were added to the freestyle wrestling program in 2004 but the number of divisions have been outweighed by the men’s, especially with Greco Roman wrestling being a male-only domain.

With gender equality a huge focus for the IOC across all sports, this was clearly an important issue for wrestling to address.

“Gender equity was one of the major things we have reacted on,” Saul said. “We’ve increased the number of weight divisions from four to six and also made a permanent female vice president position.”

There are now almost two days of meetings and reports on progress of future Games, before the new IOC President and Vice President is determined. See the full schedule here>>>


Alice Wheeler
@AUSOlympicTeam
olympics.com.au

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