India to lobby for wrestling's Olympic status
MUMBAI (Reuters) - India will seek the support of other countries where wrestling is popular to help the sport remain an Olympic discipline, the country's sports ministry said on Wednesday.
Wrestling was stunned when the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Executive Board made a surprise recommendation on Tuesday to drop the sport from the 2020 Games.
Part of the first modern Olympics in 1896 and all further editions of the Games, wrestling has now joined seven other candidate sports battling for one spot in a revamped programme.
India has won four Olympic wrestling medals and the country's government termed the IOC decision "most unfortunate and shocking".
"This ancient sport has helped the Indian grapplers to make a mark and bring India on the global sporting map," the sports ministry said in a statement.
"Wrestling is a popular sport not only in India but also in many other countries such as Russia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Japan, China etc.
"The exclusion of the discipline from the Olympics will demoralise the sport's participants and will deeply affect the sustenance of the game in the future."
The government said it would raise the issue with the IOC and hoped the sport could find its way back as a core Olympic discipline.
"Ministry ... will also take up the issue with other nations where wrestling is a popular sport," the statement added.
"The Ministry will take up the issue with the IOC to reconsider its decision and retain wrestling in the category of core sports in the Olympic Games."
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA), banned by the IOC in December due to government interference in its elections, said the move will demoralise youngsters who took up the sport after the country's good showing at the London Olympics.
Two of India's overall total of six medals at last year's Games came in wrestling with Beijing Olympics bronze medallist Sushil Kumar going one better by winning silver in the 66kg freestyle and Yogeshwar Dutt claiming the 60kg freestyle bronze.
"Wrestling is part of Indian sporting folklore. It is a very popular sport in the over one-billion strong country," said the statement from Vijay Kumar Malhotra, the IOA's acting president.
"The recent good showing by the Indian and other Asian wrestlers in the Olympics has boosted this sport in the region and thousands of youngsters have taken to it and removing it from the Olympic programme will do immense harm to the sports and will de-motivate and demoralise these youngsters."
(Editing by Ken Ferris)
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