By Jordan Halkyard
One of the Olympics original sports may be left out of the Games in 2020. Wrestling, which has been a part of the Olympics since its inception in ancient Greece, has been taken out of a group of 25 core sports, including basketball, fencing and gymnastics, and placed in a group of seven sports battling for approval to enter the 2020
Former Canadian Olympic wrestler Dean Schmeichel said there have always been rumors that the sport might be dropped. The main reason is because wrestling doesn’t bring in big numbers of spectators, either on television at the Olympic venues.
“You almost need to be a wrestler to understand what’s happening. So, it’s not easy to watch for the casual viewer, which puts it at risk all the time. It is not a money sport, it is more than likely a drain,” said Schmeichel.
Although wrestling may not be as profitable as some of its Olympic counterparts, Schmeichel still believes wrestling not being at the Olympics cheapens the Games.
“One of the sports on the chopping blocks is modern pentathlon, and no offense to modern pentathletes out there, but I am willing to bet that around the world for every one modern pentathlete there is probably 5,000 wrestlers. So, when you look at just pure participation it is obviously not about that,” said Schmeichel, a Tisdale native.
The biggest impact the Olympics has had on wrestling is that it gave the sport a two-week platform to introduce itself to people who may not have seen the sport before.
“I’m coaching the Junior Dinos (wrestling team) in Calgary and my co-coach is Carol Huynh (2008 Olympic gold medalist and 2012 bronze medalist). Well, we have record attendance numbers and Carol is driving those numbers,” Schmeichel explained.
This is also true of small towns here in Saskatchewan. For wrestlers in these towns the Olympics can be the end result of a long-term goal.
Ken Kot, the head coach of the Weyburn Wrestling Club said being out of the Olympics may hurt the numbers at his club. Going to the Olympics can be a major goal for the 55 wrestlers between the ages of eight and 18 who come out to compete at his club.
“It is something that the kids shoot for, and representing your country is a big deal,” Kot added.
Those sentiments were shared by Steve Neufeld, the head coach at the North Battleford Wrestling Club. Neufeld said wrestling’s status as an individual sport forces children to work harder towards their goals like the Olympics.
“I find if a student really likes it and trains hard, then they see a lot of returns for that,” said Neufeld.
To continue to inspire future generations of grapplers, the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles will have to lobby the International Olympic Committee to remain a part of the Games. This will have to happen before the I.O.C’s 125th Session, to be held from September 7-10 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.