India hails wrestling's reinstatement at Olympics
NEW DELHI (AP) - India's wrestling fraternity has welcomed the International Olympic Committee's decision to restore the ancient sport at the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games.
India, which has only recently won individual medals at the Olympics, won two of its six medals at London last year through its wrestlers. The country's only athlete to win two individual medals is wrestler Sushil Kumar, who won bronze at Beijing in 2008 and silver at London in 2012.
"The Olympics would have been incomplete without the ancient sport of wrestling,'' Kumar said in New Delhi. "Several youngsters took up the sport after the country's success in Beijing and London, and they had seemed disappointed. I'm sure they'll now look to win medals at the Olympics.''
Wrestling, which has featured at every modern Olympic Games except Paris in 1900, was voted back into the program at an IOC meeting in Buenos Aires on Sunday, beating baseball-softball and squash.
Wrestling received 49 out of 95 votes from the IOC executive board, the joint bid of baseball-softball was second with 24 votes and squash got 22.
Yogeshwar Dutt, who won a bronze at London, praised world wrestling body FILA for fighting for its reinstatement after it was announced in February that wrestling would not be among the core events at the Olympics.
"We thank people who supported our sport and I feel the FILA did its bit in ensuring the sport did not suffer by making significant changes to its format,'' Dutt said. "This development is very good for the future of Indian sport.''
The world body has made several changes to make the sport to make it more attractive for spectators. Matches will now comprise two three-minute sessions instead of three two-minute periods and scoring will be cumulative instead of a best-of-three system.
Satpal Singh, a former wrestler turned coach who has trained Kumar among others, said wrestling is important for Indians.
"Wrestling will always remain special for Indians and I feel we can win more wrestling medals in the coming years,'' he said.
Meanwhile, the Indian government claimed some credit for pushing for the sport in the Olympics through its sports minister.
"Mr. Jitendra Singh had written to Mr. Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC, requesting him to reconsider the decision of the EB (executive board) of the IOC and retain wrestling among the core sports in the Olympic Games,'' the sports ministry said in a statement. "The minister had also written to the sports ministers of other countries where wrestling is popular ... seeking their support.''