BAD NEWS: Japanese wrestling officials and 2012 Olympic wrestling medallists Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu (gold), second right, and Shinichi Yumoto (bronze), right, react to the news of the sport’s axing from the 2020 Olympics, at a press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday. Picture:   REUTERS
Japanese wrestling officials and 2012 Olympic wrestling medallists Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu (gold), second right, and Shinichi Yumoto (bronze), right, react to the news of the sport’s axing from the 2020 Olympics. Picture: REUTERS

JAPANESE wrestling chiefs yesterday urged Olympic medallists the world over to join forces to save their sport from being dropped from the 2020 Games.

Tomiaki Fukuda, vice- president of the international wrestling federation Fila, said in Tokyo he had proposed the lobbying plan in letters to all executives of the organisation.

The medallists, including three-time Olympic champions Alexander Karelin of Russia and Saori Yoshida of Japan, are being asked to gather in the Russian city of St Petersburg when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board meets on May 26-31.

"I have proposed that they lobby the IOC executives and hold rallies to state our case there," Fukuda, also president of the Japan Wrestling Federation, told a news conference.

"We have been insufficient in lobbying the IOC. Russia has promised to mobilise all medallists, including Karelin," he said.

Fukuda said he had also proposed the heads of all 180 national wrestling federations write a letter to IOC president Jacques Rogge asking him to help keep the sport part of the games.

Earlier this month the 15- member IOC executive voted to drop wrestling from the Olympic programme. The sport has been part of every modern Olympics, apart from the 1900 Games.

It will remain on the programme for 2016 in Rio de Janeiro but faces a fight against seven other sports for inclusion in 2020, which Tokyo is bidding to host.

The St Petersburg meeting is expected to narrow the number of sports — possibly to three — that should be put forward to the 100- plus IOC members in Buenos Aires in September when they select just one survivor for 2020.

The other sports are baseball and softball, squash, karate, roller sports, wakeboarding, sport climbing and the Chinese martial art of wushu.

Yoshida, who won the women’s 55kg freestyle gold at last year’s London Games for a 13th successive Olympic or world championship title, said she might go to St Petersburg. "I started wrestling after seeing it on television. There are children who started wrestling after they saw me competing. I want to co-operate with the presentation in an effort not to destroy their dreams."

Sapa-AFP