| Sushil Kumar |
New Delhi: The wrestling fraternity in India heaved a sigh of relief on Sunday evening after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to retain wrestling for the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games.
However, wrestling’s gain was a loss for squash and baseball/softball (joint bid). Being a part of the Olympics since 1896, wrestling outbid the other two sports after a presentation and vote held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. There was only a single spot up for grabs.
Sushil Kumar, a double Olympic medallist, must have handled many pressure situations during his bouts. But even he admitted that Sunday kept him a tense man.
“I am supposed to leave for Budapest (for the World Championships) in the next couple of days to join the Indian squad… But I could not concentrate on anything,” Sushil said.
“It’s a great decision… There cannot be any better news for India sports. It would have been a huge disaster had the IOC decided against retaining wrestling in Olympics. Thousands of aspiring wrestlers across the country would have been devastated,” said the London Games silver medallist.
“India have won four wrestling medals in the Olympics so far and would win many more in near future,” a relieved Sushil hoped.
| Yogeshwar Dutt |
Interestingly, the fierce campaign for squash to be included in Olympics was led by an Indian, N. Ramachandran, the Chennai-based president of the world body. Sources said that Ramachandran made an impressive presentation pointing out that the game was played in 185 countries. “Squash represents the future, not the past,” Ramachandran argued.
It’s another story that the inclusion of squash could have opened the Olympic door for some leading Indian players like Saurav Ghosal, Dipikia Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa.
Wrestling, which was dropped from the list of core sports in February, was widely favoured to win back its place in a secret vote by the IOC, which also rejected a proposal by Canadian member Dick Pound to postpone a decision for five months to allow a new sport to get in. The members then approved the list of 25 core sports to allow the vote to go ahead.
Wrestling obtained a majority of 49 votes in the secret ballot among 95 members, after all three sports had made a 20-minute presentation. Baseball/softball, not on the programme since 2008, got 24 votes. Squash, bidding to become a new Olympic sport, had to settle for 22.
Yashvir, the coach of Sushil Kumar and a Dronacharya award winner, seemed to be the happiest. “I can’t express my happiness in words… All I can say is that I am as happy as I was five years ago in Beijing when Sushil had won a bronze medal for India. If that was a historic moment, today is no different.”
On the other hand, a disappointed Saurav said: “We tried our best… Our presentation was impressive. Sadly the decision was not in our hands… But we will keep trying.”