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Athletes "Angry, Confused" At IOC's Unexpected Recommendation to Drop Wrestling

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Tuesday's decision by the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Executive Board to recommend dropping the sport of wrestling from the Olympics starting in 2020 took everyone by surprise including the fans, athletes and even the International Wrestling Federation (FILA).

"Words can't explain how surprised I was," Wrestling Canada President Don Ryan told GamesBids.com shortly after the IOC's mid-day announcement from Lausanne, Switzerland.

"Nowhere has anyone mentioned that wrestling was even close to the chopping block."

Canada's wrestling program has achieved recent success at the Olympics, accounting for two of 18 medals earned in London last year, making this decision even more difficult to swallow for Ryan and prompting the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) to release a special statement.

"It is disappointing to potentially lose this important sport from the Canadian Olympic Team roster in 2020. Our country has a long tradition of excellence in this sport exemplifying a proud tradition of being best in class," COC President Marcel Aubut said in the statement.

Ryan said "at the FILA conference at the London Games we had meetings there and there was no indication that wrestling was on the chopping block - and I believe they were lobbying."

"I spoke to a few FILA members by email [today] and they did not know it was coming either. They are trying to come up with a communication plan and a lobbying strategy to add wrestling back on to the 2020 Olympic Games.

The athletes are "angry, confused - they don't understand why," he said

"Wrestling is a genuine sport; there's not a lot of equipment, it's actually just two athletes out there, working hard to defeat each other, and then they shake hands aftewards."

"I can't envision the sport of wrestling not in the Olympics."

Wrestling was part of the ancient Olympic Games and has been contested at all but one of the modern Olympiads.

After the decision was announced, the Facebook page "Save Olympic Wrestling" was created and within 7 hours accumulated over 32,000 "likes".

The decision was also met with much regret on Twitter where hashtag #SaveOlympicWrestling has defined a popular conversation.

American Softball Gold Medalist Jennie Finch tweeted "My heart breaks w/ all the athletes out there! #SaveOlympicWrestling We can relate, unfortunately. #backsoftball Dreams shattered. @Olympics."

Softball was dropped from the London Games and unsuccessfully sought re-inclusion for the 2016 Games.  Now Softball has joined forces with Baseball to become the 26th sport on the 2020 Olympic program and will be competing with wrestling and six other sports for that one opportunity.

Climbing, karate, roller sports, squash, wakeboard and wushu are also seeking inclusion.  Along with wrestling, the sports federations will present their cases to the IOC at a meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia in May and then face a membership vote in Buenos Aires in September.

FILA released the following statement to address the IOC decision:

"FILA was greatly astonished by today's recommendation of the IOC Executive Board not to maintain wrestling among the 25 core sports for the 2020 Olympic Games. FILA will take all necessary measures to convince the IOC Executive Board and IOC members of the aberration of such decision against one of the founding sports of the ancient and modern Olympic Games. FILA has always complied with the IOC regulations and is reprensented in 180 countries, with wrestling being the national sport in a fair amount of them and the only possibility for athletes to represent their country at the Olympic Games, thus contributing to their universality."

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Olympic Sports Bids Summary
Bid Status: Wrestling has been included in 2020 Olympics
Bid Date: September 2013
Bid Location: Beunos Aires, Argentina
Description: Wrestling has been included in 2020 Olympics
Bid Book: Link To Bid Book
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