New Delhi: Indian wrestling fraternity today expressed shock and surprise at the IOC`s move to drop the sport from the 2020 Olympic programme, with London medal winners fearing the decision could halt the rising profile of the game in the country.
In a sudden development, the International Olympic Committee`s Executive Board in its meeting at Lausanne today decided to remove wrestling from the 2020 Olympics.
"I don`t see any reason why IOC decided to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympic programme. I am still finding it difficult to come to terms with the news," Sushil Kumar, who won a silver in London Olympics in 66 kg freestyle event, told PTI.
"In my view, the IOC would find it difficult to remove it from the list given the sport`s huge popularity across the globe. It`s an old sport and famous worldwide," said Sushil who created history by becoming the first Indian to win back-to-back Olympic medals.
Asked if he feels that wrestling can come back when the IOC votes on the inclusion of a sport in its Executive Board meeting later in the year, he said, "Yes, I am confident, wrestling will remain part of the Olympic Games."
Sushil`s childhood friend and London Olympics bronze medallist, Yogeshwar Dutt said the decision would be a "big setback" for the upcoming crop of wrestlers.
"I am extremely disappointed to hear the news. Wrestling has made India a force to reckon with in the Olympic arena and the IOC has dropped a worldwide famous sport from its list. It`s a shocking news to me," said Dutt.
"What about the upcoming wrestlers? What about their future? Sushil won medals in Beijing and London and I won it in London too. We are targeting the 2016 Rio Olympics but there are other young wrestlers who are preparing for the next edition. What about them? They would become aimless after this sudden decision," added Dutt.
The IOC Board acted after reviewing the 26 sports on the current Olympic program. Dropping one sport allows the IOC to include a new sport to its program later this year.
Wrestling will now join seven other sports in applying for inclusion in 2020. The others are baseball and softball, karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu. They will be vying for a single spot in 2020.
The IOC executive board will meet in May in Russia to decide which sport or sports to propose for 2020 inclusion. The final vote will be made at the IOC general assembly in September in Argentina.
The wrestling arena has been a happy hunting ground for India at the Olympics as the country boast of four medals from the quadrennial event. Apart from Sushil and Yogeshwar, legendary K D Jadhav won a bronze in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.
Sushil said there was a marked change in the mindset of the Indian grapplers who are preparing for the Rio and 2020 Olympics as gone are the days when the Indians made up the numbers and were content with making a trip to the Olympics.
"The Indians no more want to just add to the numbers but look to win medals at the Olympics. Wrestling has given three medals in the last two Olympics and the event has become our main priority. The IOC should revisit their decision," he said.
Yogeshwar said the Government of India should urge the IOC to reconsider their decision.
Chief National coach, Vinod Kumar said that the news has come as a big shock to him.
"I just saw it on news channels and my first reaction was `IOC must be joking, they can`t do it`. It`s shocking and disappointing. One must understand that it`s a famous sport not only in India but world over. It will effect India`s medal chances at the Olympics," he said.
General Secretary of Wrestling Federation of India Raj Singh said he expects the decision to be overturned in the next IOC meeting.
"The current IOC president (Jaques Rogge) doesn`t favour wrestling much. But I have been told that his likely successor likes wrestling and he will do something about wrestling. I am sure the decision will be overturned," he said.
"Wrestling has been a part of every Olympics. I am sure if a European country bags the right to host the 2020 Olympics they will definitely include wrestling. I will also be writing to FILA to make a strong representation for re-inclusion of wrestling in the Olympics," he said.
Sushil`s mentor and Dronacharya awardee coach Satpal Singh said the decision would shatter the dreams of many wrestlers who were aiming to make big in 2020 Olympics.
"It is unfortunate that such a decision has been taken. Dreams of millions of budding wrestlers in the country would be shattered. The sport, after medals from Sushil and Yogeshwar, has become the heartbeat of the country," Satpal said.
"We have conquered every feat in this sport be it World Championships, Asiad, Commonwealth Games. We were aiming a rich haul of medals at the Olympics. I am preparing around 12-14 medal probables in the age group 15 to 16 years in my academy. But today`s decision could spell disaster for us," he said.
"My heart says the decision will be revoked," he added.