Standing up for their sport.
The annual Renfrew Amateur Wrestling Club’s Renfrew Rumble wrestling tournament began Saturday with a special presentation and photo op in response to the recent announcement that wrestling is in jeopardy of being excluded from the 2020 Olympics. Wrestlers, coaches, draw masters, referees and other supporters gather on the mat to show the sport is alive and well in Renfrew County.
Last week’s announcement that wrestling not be a core sport at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games has shocked the wrestling world.
Include Renfrew in that category. Not only a wrestling haven for youngsters, the town has hosted national-level events, including a national championship and the visit of such international stars as Daniel Igali, Tonya Verbeek and Martine Dugrenier.
Dugrenier, a double Olympian and two-time world champion with the Montreal Wrestling Club, has been regular visitor to Renfrew to give clinics. The 33-year-old is recovering from shoulder surgery that could steer her into retirement. Meanwhile, however, Dugrenier was stunned to hear her sport may be turfed from the Summer Olympic program by 2020.
“Everyone is in shock,” she told the Renfrew Mercury EMC. “No one saw it coming, including the Canadian and international federations.”
Dugrenier says the fight’s not over, but that there’s lots of work to be done to convince the International Olympic Committee executive board otherwise.
Wrestling is already part of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but that’s little consolation if lobbying efforts are unsuccessful.
Renfrew resident Grant Lavallee, who has a long history as a wrestling competitor or coach, says the decision appears to be more about dollars and cents, and how much some sports can financially benefit the Olympic movement.
Also, he points out that wrestling and running are two of the oldest Olympic events, from their Olympic debut in 1896, and that running isn’t making a exit any time soon.
Other Renfrew coaches feel similarly.
“We’re going to make as much noise as possible,” said Jamie McDonald, head coach of the Renfrew Amateur Wrestling Club’s Mat Rat team in the local elementary schools.
“Coaches, kids and parents are going to show how much interest there is for the sport, and I’m sure we’re not the only area.”
“History does change, but it’s a shame that’s it’s going more with the spectator-leading sports instead of with the effort and energy that’s displayed in our sport,” said Lavallee.
Lavallee is convinced wrestling is one of the most tried and true Olympic sports, with the highest requirements for physical commitment and energy. He puts the sport in a category with rowing, which remains an Olympic sport.
In a statement released last week, Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut said the IOC is proposing that wrestling be shortlisted as a sport left to vie for the 2020 Olympics’ one additional sport. The other sports in that position are baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu. All will have the opportunity to state their case to the IOC executive board in May in St. Petersburg, Russia.
In a new release, Aubut said, “It is disappointing that wrestling may not be a member of the Olympic family in 2020 …Our country has a long tradition of excellence in this sport exemplifying a proud tradition of being best in class.”
He cited the examples of Daniel Igali, who won Canada’s first-ever Olympic wrestling gold in 2000, and the 2012 Olympic medals by Tonya Verbeek and Carol Huynh.
The IOC stresses the executive board’s decision is a recommendation, which goes to the September 2013 IOC session in Buenos Aires.
The IOC recommends the following 25 sports be the core sports of the 2020 Olympics: archery, athletics, rowing, badminton, basketball, boxing, canoeing, cycling, equestrian, fencing, football (soccer), gymnastics, weightlifting, team handball, field hockey, judo, swimming, modern pentathlon, taekwondo, tennis, table tennis, triathlon, sailing, shooting and volleyball.