British wrestling’s Salford-based academy in shock after sport faces surprise 2020 Olympic Games axe

By Steven Oldham

Dropping wrestling from the 2020 Olympic Games will have a negative impact on the sport in Britain, warns former Commonwealth Games competitor Non Evans. 

Evans was reacting to the decision of the International Olympic Committe’s executive board to exclude wrestling from a list of 25 ‘core sports’ guaranteed a place at 2020. 

Modern pentathlon and taekwondo were considered more at risk but wrestling was the sport to miss out. 

Evans said: “This will have a huge impact on wrestling in Great Britain. It’s really taken off since the 2010 Commonwealths in Delhi. 

“Every session at London 2012 was a sell out and I’m very disappointed that one of the oldest Olympics sports has been dropped like this.” 

British Wrestling’s Academy in Salford is home to the national team, including London 2012 Olympian Olga Butkevych and national champion Leon Rattigan. 

Chief Executive Colin Nicholson said: “I feel sorry for the wrestling community both here and worldwide. 

“I was given no indication that our sport was at risk of being dropped for 2020. 

“The sport has a big global appeal – in the USA it is the sixth more college sport and it is massive in Eastern Europe and Asia, certainly more than some of the sports bidding to replace us.” 

There is now space on the Olympic programme for one more sport, along with all other events competed at London 2012, as well as golf and rugby sevens which will be included at Rio 2016 for the first time. 

Evans – the first woman to compete in three different sports at the Commonwealths (wrestling, judo and weightlifting) – believes the sport can be reinstated at the decisive IOC meeting in September. 

“If the right people get together and focus on the importance of the sport’s history, we could stil see wrestling reinstated to the 2020 programme. I am confident the sport has enough to do this,” she said.

Wrestling has been contested at every Olympics bar the 1900 Games in Paris and is seen as an important part of maintaining the modern Olympiads’ connection with history. 

The gap created by wrestling being dropped has potentially opened up a space for one of seven sports bidding to be included in the Olympics from 2020 onwards. 

Squash, wakeboarding, wushu (kung fu), karate, roller sports, sport climbing and a joint effort from baseball and softball are the possible replacements, and wrestling will have to fight against these sports to fill the remaining place at 2020. 

Baseball and softball were both dropped ahead of London 2012, with squash being tipped to be promoted ahead of its’ rivals. 

Evans, 37, believes the inclusion of mainstream sports including golf, tennis and football is a sign of the times. 

“Maybe they are looking at the commercial side more now. People are more likely to spend money on a set of golf clubs than a wrestling kit. 

“Wrestling is popular in countries that are not as rich – Iraq, Iran, Eastern Europe – it’s got big global appeal.” 

She urged today’s wrestlers not to give up in their quest to reach Rio de Janeiro. 

“I think this announcement might spur the current generation on to reach Rio 2016. They still have a chance to go to the Olympics and who knows, it could be back in 2024.” 

Wrestling and the other sports bidding to be included will find out their fate in September at the IOC meeting in Buenos Aries, when the host city for 2020 will also be decided. 

Follow @spoldham on Twitter.

Image courtesy of Leon Rattigan, via YouTube, with thanks.

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