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World’s Wrestlers In Olympia To Save Sport

July 22nd, 2013 by Tom

Training-for-the-Ancient-Olympic-Games

A decision by the International Olympic Committee "which is located in Switzerland and not Greece, home of the Olympics "to strike one of he most ancient and revered original sports "wrestling "from the games as of 2020 in favor of more modern events isn't sitting well with practitioners and devotees who are going to the sport's birthplace to protest.

On Saturday and Sunday, July 20 & 21, wrestlers from all over the world met at the place of origin of the Olympic Movement which is Olympia, Greece "to take part in a Senior International Tournament, the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) the news agency ANSA reported. The meeting is seen as critical to try to persuade the IOC that wrestling is more important than synchronized swimming or watching gymnasts twirl ribbons.

The wrestlers said they are backing FILA's Save Olympic Wrestling campaign: wrestling is global, wrestling is for all and wrestling is one of the original sports. In February 2013, the IOC voted to remove the sport from the 2020 Summer Olympics onwards although the decision is under assault from wrestling backers.

Along with boxing, it is one of only two sports that still require participants to have amateur status to participate in the Olympics. The IOC executive board met on May 29th in St. Petersburg, Russia, and selected Wrestling, Baseball/Softball, and Squash as the list of sports to be considered for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics but that doesn't mean they will be as the IOC is looking for sports it believes are more appealing to the young and TV so it can make more money.

Wrestling is the oldest sport known to man. Wrestling is an original Olympic sport. Millions of people compete in wrestling worldwide. 179 different countries have FILA affiliations. 79 countries sent participants to the 2012 Olympic games. Athletes from 29 different countries received Olympic medals at the 2012 Olympic games. An Olympic medial is the ultimate goal for a wrestler.

The finals, for all weight classes and styles, will be staged at the International Olympic Academy and shared via livestream on the official FILA Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/fila.official In addition to the matches, wrestlers will have the opportunity to walk the grounds of Ancient Olympia, including the Palaestra and the Stadium at Olympia.

Both of these locations hold significant meaning to the sport of wrestling, as heroes of the sport, such as Milo of Croton, have stepped foot on the very same ground.

Wrestling federation returns to roots

July 21st, 2013 by Tom

US Wrestling Olympic Trials

World amateur wrestling body FILA has brought its campaign to save the sport in the Olympics to its birthplace, Greece.

FILA, with the help of the Greek wrestling federation, has organised a senior international tournament in Olympia this weekend to help publicise their fight to keep the sport in the Olympic Games in 2020.

The 15-member Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in February voted to remove wrestling from the Olympic schedule. The IOC will make a final decision in Buenos Aires in September on whether wrestling will remain for 2020.

"We were punished by the IOC for not listening to suggestions in the past, "FILA president Nenad Lalovic told AFP.

"I don't blame the IOC, this is our problem and we have to fix it. We came here (Greece) to become wiser. We've come back to our roots."

Lalovic said ever since the IOC decision in February, FILA has been working to make drastic changes in the sport "in order to make it more popular, more watchable."

"Every week we think about changes. Even if we make mistakes, it's worth trying them. We have not gone through a facelift, but major changes. We are not afraid of changing for the better, "Lalovic said.

He expressed optimism that the IOC decision will be in favour of wrestling come September.

"Wrestling is practised everywhere on earth. Strictly speaking no other sport has that. Look at the U.S. They have 28,000 scholarships for wrestling and 9,000 of them are for girls. I believe in a short time we did a lot by changing rules, our constitution, we introduced women onto our board, we made the sport more competitive, "Lalovic said.

The FILA congress met in Moscow in May to agree to changes, with delegates saying their sport risked being incomprehensible to outsiders.

The rule changes to both Olympic wrestling styles -- Greco Roman and Freestyle -- aim to make the sport more attractive for TV audiences by favouring spectacular throws and attacking wrestling.

Many competitions, including during the weekend in Olympia, will or else have been using the new rules with success, according to Lalovic.

"Usually you need a year to make these changes. We made them in less than a month. We've had problems, such as with scoreboards, but these will all be adjusted, "Lalovic said.

Lalovic added FILA needs to develop national championships and make wrestling more a team sport.

"Maybe 10 or 15 countries only have this now. We are thinking of having a world championship for teams - this would be something new. We believe we have too many individual championships. It is an individual sport but you can have something like the Davis Cup in tennis for wrestling, "Lalovic said.

The weekend competition in Olympia will feature 130 athletes from 11 countries.

"It is a great honour to host such an event at the birthplace of the Olympic Games. The Greek wrestling federation is excited and feels confident this event will show the world the historic importance of the sport of wrestling as an integral part of the Modern Olympic Games as it was for the ancient Games, "said Greek wrestling federation president Constantine Thanos.

Olympics uncertainty galvanizes wrestling community at home, worldwide

July 8th, 2013 by Tom

Aaron Puckett Wrestler

From the very infancy of the ancient Olympic Games, as early as 708 B.C. on the plains of Olympia, wrestling was there.

Described by the International Olympic Committee as being "highly valued as a form of military exercise without weapons," matches ended only when one competitor admitted defeat.

Multiple millennia later, that same committee looked at the sport as presently constructed, its rules vastly different not only from the ancient incarnation but also that of more recent years past, and recommended its removal from the 2020 games, cutting it from the Olympics' list of 26 core sports.

Wrestling, in its most dire hour, instead refused to concede defeat.

Already deep into their seasons, several area high school coaches circulated emails and petitions to spread awareness of the IOC's, February decision., The sport's international governing body, FILA, meanwhile set about a series of changes to wrestling's rules and changes to its own intra-agency practices. And the unlikeliest of allies " the United States, Iran and Russia " banded together as brothers in arms.

The story of wrestling's battle to remain in the Olympic Games transcends continents. And yet it can also be told without leaving one's Northeast Kansas community.

'Not enough promotion'

In late May, Ken Chertow, a wrestler on the 1988 U.S. Olympic team, returned to Shawnee, as part of his now 25-year nationwide wrestling camp. A former All-American at Penn State University, Chertow was inside the Shawnee Mission Northwest High auxiliary gymnasium the day the IOC, voted, to include wrestling on a short list for inclusion in the 2020 Summer Olympics " wrestling will remain in the 2016 games in Rio. Having beaten out sports like karate, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and the Chinese martial art of wushu, wrestling joins squash and a combined bid by baseball and softball.

In St. Petersburg, Russia, where the May vote took place, FILA president Nenand Lalovic dug for his best wrestling analogy when telling The Associated Press, "The match is not finished. We have a second match to fight. But be careful, we are good fighters."

The second match on deck is the Sept. 8 full IOC assembly in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the final decision on whether to keep wrestling in the 2020 games will be made. That decision, much like the vote to keep wrestling on the short list for the games, hinges on the sport's ability to modernize with the rest of the Olympic games, as some critics had put it.

"There's not enough promotion of the sport," Chertow said. "We as a wrestling community need to work harder to promote the sport."

'You're going to lose the dreamers'

SM Northwest wrestling coach Howard Newcomb has been wrong before, he said, but he just can't envision an Olympics without wrestling.

"You're going to lose the dreamers," he said, "and that's going to be a sad day."

To be sure, there is no equivalent to the National Football League or National Basketball League for amateur wrestlers. Beyond college wrestling " and even then, the nearest Division I wrestling program is at the University of Missouri " the Olympics represent the pinnacle of the sport for its participants.

David Nordhues, a wrestling coach at Colby Community College, recently visited Bonner Springs High for a four-day camp at which he instructed wrestlers as young as five and as old as 18. He knows few, if any, will stand on an Olympic medal stand one day. But why stop trying?

"To take them dreams away from kids, it's no good," Nordhues said. "Some of them kids, they'll never be Olympic champions nor will they ever make Olympic teams, but it's OK to dream about it and set standards to live by. Whether you ever accomplish it or not, you're going to accomplish something along the way that's worth being proud of."

Nordhues' former college teammate and current BSHS wrestling coach, Brandon Jobe, posted a YouTube video on his team's website, bonnerspringswrestling.com, not long after the IOC's decision to remove it from its core sports.

In the video, "Save Olympic Wrestling," which is narrated by actor and radio personality Jay Mohr, Mohr calls the decision a disaster.

"If you take wrestling out of the Olympics," Mohr says, as footage of college and high school grapplers plays, "you're effectively stripping it from college and high school. There is no pro. There is no payoff to a wrestler. That's what separates a wrestler from the pack, that's why wrestlers walk around with chips on their shoulders.

"It's an amazing sport," Mohr, also a former wrestler, continues, "it's the purest sport. It's the solo sport. It's a monastic life, the life of a wrestler " running alone, working alone. "¦ It's the most indicative sport of what you go through on a daily basis."

Rules changes

As much of a shock the IOC's decision was to the wrestling community, Jobe admitted that the sport's rules had become confusing at the freestyle and Greco Roman levels. Honestly, he said, if he weren't around the sport as much as he is, he'd even have trouble keeping up.

"It was kind of the wake-up call that we needed to make some changes to the sport and modernize it a bit," Jobe said. "Which I think is good; it's given us some publicity. More people are talking about wrestling and I think we can use that for the good."

Since February, FILA elected a new president (Lelovic), brought more women and athletes into its decision-making and began the process of making wrestling a more compelling spectator sport.

Matches will now consist of two three-minute sessions instead of three two-minute periods. And instead of the previous system that awarded victories on best-of-three judging, matches will be decided using cumulative scoring.

What if?

Months still separate the wrestling community from learning of its Olympic future. In the time since its inclusion was thrown into question, the wrestling community banded together at seemingly all levels. The most striking scene of unity came in mid-May, when a "dream team" of U.S. wrestlers, grappled, with wrestlers from Iran and Russia at the Grand Central Terminal in New York City as part of a marketing effort to raise support for the sport.

"When they took it out of the Olympics," Nordhues said last month, "they weren't just fighting a battle against the U.S."

But what if all this " the rules changes, the promotion, the unity " isn't enough? What if wrestling, long though to be as central to the Olympics as track and field, is indeed excluded from the games?

"My gut feeling is that I think there will be some kind of anarchy if wrestling was taken out," Newcomb said. "Deep down inside I just don't see how they can pull the plug on wrestling in the Olympics."

Added Nordhues, "It will crush the sport. Do I think it will happen? Probably not. It's one of the only sports that's been there from day one."

Other events being considered like baseball and softball are fine sports, Chertow said, but don't have the global appeal of wrestling.

"It's just different," Chertow said. "We're one of the core sports, we have way more participation. And way more younger people, which is the core of the Olympic movement: to get young people to aspire to be great."

Wrestler’s ‘reprehensible’ behavior results in ban by federation

November 21st, 2008 by Tom

GENEVA -- The Swedish wrestler who dropped his medal in protest at the Beijing Olympics was banned for two years along with his coach for "scandalous behavior, "the sport's governing body said Thursday.

The wrestling federation, known as FILA, suspended Ara Abrahamian and coach Leo Myllari and banned Sweden's wrestling federation from hosting international events for two years.

FILA also fined Abrahamian $2,600, Myllari $8,600 and the Swedish federation $43,000.

In a statement, FILA president Raphael Martinetti said the Swedes showed a "serious lack of Olympic spirit."

Abrahamian disputed a penalty call which decided his semifinal bout against Andrea Minguzzi in the Greco-Roman 84-kilogram division. The Italian went on to win the gold medal.

Abrahamian won his bronze medal bout after his coach reportedly argued with judges and accused them of corruption.

During the medal ceremony, the Armenian-born wrestler took the bronze medal from his neck and dropped it on the mat as he walked away.

The International Olympic Committee stripped Abrahamian of the medal and expelled him from the Games after ruling he violated the Olympic charter and was disrespectful to other medalists.

The Swiss-based wrestling body opened its own investigation and published verdicts Thursday.

Martinetti said the decision by the judges in Beijing in the disputed bout was made according to the rules.

"The coach has been judged equally guilty since he did not intervene to calm his wrestler, "FILA secretary general Michel Dusson told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "And the federation was responsible for the behavior of its members, the wrestler and the coach, which was reprehensible."

The punishments took effect Nov. 3 and the parties have 21 days to appeal the verdicts to FILA.

The cases could then go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, where Abrahamian is also contesting the IOC rulings.

He won a first CAS hearing in August to establish that he was not given fair rights to protest the result of his disputed bout. He is now waiting for CAS to hear an appeal to downgrade his IOC expulsion to a warning.

Wrestling deals with new allegations of corruption

September 15th, 2008 by Tom

By ALAN ROBINSON, AP Sports Writer

BEIJING (AP)"The Olympic wrestling mat is red, yellow and blue, dynamic colors designed to give the athletes a vivid backdrop for their talents. It's that gray area outside the wrestling circle that discolors what its governing body proudly calls the world's oldest sport.

Some in the sport say it's one of the shadiest, too.

Backroom politicking, bribery, corruption, outlandish officiating, even threats of violence are routinely alleged in a sport that is little followed in most countries but, when noticed, seems to have as many bizarre story lines as WWE-style entertainment wrestling.

And when it happens at the Olympics, many unfamiliar with the sport are left wondering what in the world goes on in wrestling.

The most recent allegations came last month, when livid Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian walked off the medals podium and dropped his unwanted bronze medal for Greco-Roman 84 kilograms on the mat. Abrahamian blew up when a disputed penalty call wound up deciding his semifinal match against Italian Andrea Minguzzi, who went on to win the gold medal.

"I think the semifinals shows that FILA does not play fair," Abrahamian said, referring to wrestling's international governing body. "I don't deserve to lose. The system is corrupt."

His coach, Leo Myllar, was equally displeased, saying, "It's all politics, and it's all corrupt."

The International Olympic Committee is investigating, but only to determine if there should be disciplinary action against Abrahamian for his medal-stand exit.

What makes Swedish officials especially leery of this latest loss is that one of FILA's top vice presidents is Italian, and Minguzzi did nothing internationally"his average finish in five world-level championships was 27th " until he suddenly won his country's first Olympic wrestling gold in 20 years.

In Athens, Abrahamian lost a similarly disputed decision to Russia's Aleksey Mishin, who won gold there but was upset by Minguzzi in Beijing, as was Abrahamian. After losing in Athens, Abrahamian wrote on his Web site, "The score was 1-1, and that means losing, in case you meet a Russian."

Abrahamian's 2004 loss was one reason former FILA board member Pelle Svensson of Sweden resigned, but only after he unsuccessfully attempted to institute measures to begin cleaning up the sport.

What is certain is if there is an Olympics, there will be allegations of misdeeds.

Svensson, a retired judge, complained Thursday during an interview with the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that he was threatened"he wouldn't say by whom" following a post-Athens argument that left a Russian wrestling executive with a torn shirt.

In Atlanta, Iranian officials went ballistic after American Kurt Angle won a gold medal in a close, disputed match on his home mat. In Sydney, there were numerous quirky calls. In Athens, Olympic champion Buvaisar Saitiev of Russia and Belarus' Murad Gaidarov fought as they left the mat, so unhappy was Gaidarov at the officiating.

Americans aren't immune to FILA-related disputes, either. In the 2003 world freestyle championships"in New York, no less"Eric Guerrero was forcibly removed from the mat when he refused to leave after losing a disputed decision. Heavyweight Daniel Cormier, who is wrestling in Beijing, chased an Iranian wrestler around the mat and refused to shake the referee's hand when he lost.

And does this sound familiar? In Sydney, American Sammie Henson was so distraught at losing a gold medal he felt was stripped by a terrible call that he tossed his silver medal down a hallway.

The low-scoring sport's most visible problem is that many officiating calls are subjective and subtle moves and tiebreakers often decide winner and loser. A replay system allows a judge to review a referee's call, but there is no clear-cut rule when it should be used. It wasn't in Abrahamian's match.

In Beijing, it's obvious who runs amateur wrestling's big show.

FILA board members and executives sit in plush chairs beside huge displays of flowers a few feet off the mat, immediately behind the mat chairman and judge, and routinely talk among themselves.

Wrestling executives from other countries often stop by to talk, even as matches are going on, and mat giant Russia's higher-ups seem to be everywhere.

When FILA executive give their rare interviews, they merely praise the sport's virtues and refuse to be drawn into any discussion about alleged problems.

In Beijing, there are five more days of wrestling to go, and that means plenty of time for more controversy to erupt. And many who feel wronged probably won't be comforted by all those $100 displays of cut flowers toted matside every day.

Court: Medal-Dropping Abrahamian Wrestler Was Right

September 11th, 2008 by Tom

The Associated Press

BEIJING: It turns out that the Greco-Roman wrestler who was stripped of his bronze medal for dropping it in disgust on the mat had reason for being angry, according to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Ara Abrahamian of Sweden complained to CAS that a penalty in the second round of his 84-kilogram bout on Aug. 14 against Italian Andrea Minguzzi wasn't assessed until after the round ended. Once factored in, Abrahamian automatically lost the match. Minguzzi went on to win the gold medal.

Abrahamian's coach was then denied a request for a video review, then the wrestling federation " the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles, or FILA " refused to consider a protest.

The 28-year-old Abrahamian had to be restrained from going after matside officials following his loss to Minguzzi. He stormed away from the area where interviews are conducted and slammed a door to the dressing rooms.

After he was given his bronze during the medals ceremony, Abrahamian walked off the podium, went over to mat and dropped it in disgust and walked away. On Aug. 15, the International Olympic Committee disqualified Abrahamian and stripped his medal for violating the spirit of fair play during the medal ceremony.
The Armenian-born Abrahamian " who also lost a 2004 Olympic semifinal match on a disputed call " initially wanted judges in the bout tossed out and his medal restored. But in the end, he only wanted CAS to verify that the lack of an immediate appeals process is a loophole that needs to be fixed. It also was referred to as a violation of "the Olympic Charter and FILA's own rules about fair play."

Judges said Abrahamian was right.

"We limit ourselves to ruling that FILA must, consistently with the (Olympic) Charter and general principles of fairness, establish for the future a jury of appeal to determine the validity or otherwise of complaints of the kind ventilated by (Abrahamian), "the judges wrote.

Elsewhere in the 20-page ruling, judges noted several times that FILA did not appear at a hearing.