Wrestling's world governing body is hoping to make the International Olympic Committee perform a dramatic U-turn and save the sport from being booted out of the Games.
IOC vote on Tuesday put it on the fast-track to Olympic extinction, with its only chance of survival coming in September when it will be one of seven sports bidding to be part of the 2020 Games.The wrestling world was shocked when an
Wrestling's governing body FILA did little in the way of lobbying to protect itself from being cut ahead of Tuesday's meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland. Bracketed with other endangered Olympic sports such as modern pentathlon, field hockey and taekwondo, wrestling's hierarchy apparently assumed its long history in both the modern and ancient Olympics would ensure its safety.
"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," read a FILA statement.
A concerted political and public relations effort from the other sports meant wrestling did not make the cut – something it wants to rectify between now and September.
Much of wrestling's core support lies in Russia where several of that country's wealthy oil businessmen are avowed fans, have sponsored tournaments and contributed funds to Russia's national wrestling program.
"This is something that can be looked at and there are wealthy and successful people who love wrestling," a FILA source told Yahoo! Sports. "The only option now is to try to raise awareness and support and that will take a lot of effort and money.
"People must be made to see how wide-ranging the support for wrestling is around the world."
FILA is expected to spend heavily on a promotional video to be used at the IOC meeting in September, and its president, Raphael Martinetti of Switzerland, will spearhead an emergency meeting at the federation's annual conference in Thailand next week.
But it still might not be enough. The IOC rarely reverses its decisions, and even though none of the other sports hoping for 2020 inclusion have particularly compelling claims – squash and karate are the favorites – wrestling knows it is desperation time.
"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," added the FILA statement.
FILA's campaign will rely heavily upon its international nature, with 179 affiliate nations, and even though the details will not be finalized for some time, it has already been discussed that the promotional video should feature footage of athletes from smaller nations with otherwise limited Olympic representation.
On a smaller scale, individual athletes and fans are already trying to play their part. Jake Herbert of the United States, a 2012 world silver medalist, urged those with inspirational stories of how wrestling had positively impacted their lives to email him. Herbert plans to collate the messages and send them to the IOC in an attempt to further the cause.
Elsewhere, there was disappointment, mixed with the kind of defiance that might be expected from former exponents of such a demanding sport.
"Wrestling is huge around the world and now is the time to tap into that support," Cael Sanderson, a gold medalist at the 2004 Games, told Yahoo! Sports. "Hopefully it is not the end."
The United States has won 125 wrestling medals in its Olympic history, including 50 golds.
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