By Bryanna Fissori
Did anyone see that one coming?
On Tuesday, February 12 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board entered a meeting room in Lausanne, Switzerland with a heavy task at hand; choosing which Summer Olympic sport would be cut from the 2020 games.
Upon first instinct there may be a handful of events that come to mind. . . can we say synchronized swimming? Maybe table tennis isn’t too unrealistic? Even the idea of field hockey could run through some heads (I even have a hard time sitting through a field hockey game and I played in high school and college) . . . beyond that there is also modern pentathlon. How many kids really grow up saying I want to be on the “Olympic modern pentathlon team when I grow up?”
FYI- According to a Google.com search “Modern Pentathlon” is sport which includes: pistol shooting, fencing, 200 meter freestyle swimming, show jump horse ridding and a cross-country run.
Despite what those of us in the martial arts community consider to be a “popular” or “worthy” sport, the IOC were given 39 criteria by which to evaluate the activities. Some of the gauges included ticket sales, television viewings, global participation, anti-doping policy and popularity. Apparently the statistics provided showed that wrestling ranked low in several of these areas.
Though it is unlikely to be re-admitted so soon after its dismissal, the sport will be proposed along with several others for the single opening its absence has created. The other sports are baseball/softball, karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu.
There are countless professional mixed martial artists who consider wrestling to be their foundational art and a good number of them have even competed at the Olympic level including Daniel Cormier (2004, 2008), Ben Askren (2008), Matt Lindland (2000), Mark Coleman (1992), Dan Henderson (1992, 1996) and Sara McMann (2004).
Speculations across fight media are discouraging regarding the potential affect the loss of Olympic wrestling will have on MMA. Wrestling is often considered a foundational stepping-stone in the grappling arts on the way to becoming a cage competitor. Some athletes start putting in mat time before they are even old enough to go to school. To this point there has been the potential of a future reward for their efforts beyond the elementary school medals, beyond the high school championships and the college scholarships.
It is hard to say what the long-term impacts may be for a world without Olympic wrestling. The absence of its presence has the potential to affect the funding allotted for college scholarships, high school wrestling programs and after school programs.
In the history of the Olympics, according to multiple sources, the only year wrestling was not hosted was in 1900. It has been a part of the games every single year otherwise since the ancient Olympic games in 708 B.C. and the re-establishment of the modern games in 1896. The sport is unlikely to fade away in a matter of months or years, especially given that it will remain on the roster for the 2016 Summer Olympics, but with a potential eight years or more before being re-instated this could change career paths for many up and comers who are currently at the appropriate age and progression to compete in 2020 or in subsequent games.
With no previous experience in wrestling my MMA coaches sent me to high school (Iolani School) wrestling practice at the age of 26. Those kids are beasts and have potential to do big things in the sport. We can only hope they get the opportunity.
*On a side-note- Synchronized swimming is considered a part of “aquatics” and cannot be singularly eliminated . . . just in case you were curious.
What are your thoughts?