Some 200 wrestlers competing in the East Japan collegiate wrestling league championship tourney in Tokyo joined in the appeal to save Olympic wrestling with the 922,169 persons who have signed a petition calling for the preservation of the ages old sport in the Olympic Games.
The event was staged on May 15 at Tokyo's Komazawa Gymnasium, the venue for the wrestling competition at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. It was the second day of the university league championship, the biggest annual event in collegiate wrestling in eastern Japan.
About 200 wrestlers from 16 universities participating in the league's dual-meet championships took to the floor of Komazawa Gymnasium along with Tomiaki Fukuda, president of the Japan Wrestling Federation, Yuji Takada, 1976 Olympic champion and JWF general secretary, and Hiroshi Hase, JWF vice president, for the event.
Saori Yoshida, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, and Kazuhito Sakae, head of the Japanese women's national team were also present, coming to the event after concluding the All-Japan training camp earlier in the day.
Sakae shouted "Save Olympic Wrestling" and the university wrestlers punched the air and responded with a hearty "Yo" in agreement and support. The campaign to save Olympic wrestling has attracted the attention of the television networks and newspapers, who sent their reporters to cover the day's events
Also on May 15, dual meets between the United States, Russia and Iran are scheduled in New York, all stressing the importance of wrestling in the lives and cultures and histories of people around the world. Because of the time difference between Tokyo and New York, the collegiate event in Japan can be seen as a herald for the largest event in world wrestling.
Meanwhile, Japan's signature collection campaign, which stood at 821,342 on May 2, had reached 922,160 by noon on May 15. The signatures are scheduled to be sent to the International Wrestling Federation (FILA) in the very near future.
"With the force of reaching 1 million signatures, I am convinced that wrestling is supported by many, many people. I hope that from Japan, through wrestling, we will connect with the people of the world, and wrestling will remain a part of the Olympic Games," said JWF president Tomiaki Fukuda.
"When I heard before that there were 820,000 people (who had signed the petition), I was really surprised. To hear the number today, I felt joy and I want to do my best to make sure wrestling remains in the Olympics," added Yoshida.
Fukuda is headed to Moscow on May 16 in order to attend the extraordinary meeting of the FILA Bureau and Congress.
CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (May 15) - A trio of gold medalists from the London 2012 Olympic Games top FILA's inaugural international rankings for women's freestyle wrestling.
Three-time Olympic Games gold medalists Saori YOSHIDA (Japan) and Kaori ICHO (Japan) top the rankings at 55kg and 63kg, respectively, while 72kg champion Natalya VOROBIEVA (Russia) sits atop the 72kg rankings as she collects more championship hardware at heavyweight.
VOROBIEVA, a three-time junior world champion before her London triumph, won the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix crown in January, added the Klippan Ladies Open title in February and then prevailed at the European championships in March.
Joining VOROBIEVA on her winter tour of triumphs was another former junior world champ, Valeria CHEPSARAKOVA (Russia), who matched her teammate win-for-win at wrestling's lightest weight category.
In addition to the Japanese veterans and the Russian young guns, the other three weight categories were shared by Jessica MacDONALD (Canada) at 51kg, ZHANG Lan (China) at 59kg, and Nasanburmaa OCHIRBAT (Mongolia) at 67kg.
These three weight categories have been the "non-Olympic" events in women's wrestling, but the distribution of results among the top 10 in these weight classes show they are as intensely competitive as the four categories contested at the Olympic Games.
New York City (May 16) – Nenad Lalovic, the Acting President of FILA, traveled to New York City this week to attend historic wrestling matches between Iran, Russia and the United States, as well as exhibition matches between American youth wrestlers. The matches were held in world-famous Grand Central Terminal and were part of a series of international events celebrating the designation of May as World Wrestling Month. President Lalovic began the month by attending the African Wrestling Championships in N’Djamena, Chad.
The event at Grand Central Terminal represented a rare chance for three great wrestling nations to come together in the spirit of goodwill and sportsmanship. President Lalovic stated that “This match is an exciting chance for the sport of wrestling to showcase its ability to unite people from nations with different political, cultural and geographic backgrounds. It is also wonderful to see these young boys and girls enjoying the sport and learning the valuable life skills associated with wrestling; like physical fitness and teamwork.” Full results from the competitions can be found on FILA’s website, http://www.fila-official.com/.
While in New York, President Lalovic attended a press conference at the United Nations where each team’s athletes weighed-in and were introduced to the media. During President Lalovic’s opening remarks at the event he noted that “We are dedicated to reforming our sport and making FILA a more pro-active and responsible organization. We will do everything we can to address the IOC’s concerns and ensure that wrestling remains a part of the Olympic Games.” Under President Lalovic, FILA introduced a number of potential changes that it will vote on in the next several days.
President Lalovic became interim-President of FILA following the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) February decision to exclude wrestling from the 2020 Olympic Games. He is currently in Moscow for FILA’s May 18th Extraordinary Congress, where delegates from the 177 national wrestling federations will come together to discuss and decide on the sport’s future. President Lalovic said that “This will be one of the most important meetings in the history of our sport.”
FILA, the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles, is the global governing body of the sport of wrestling. It works to promote the sport and facilitate the activities of its 177 national federations from around the world. It is based in Vevey, Switzerland.
To learn more about FILA’s campaign to keep wrestling in the Olympic Games visit its official website, http://www.fila-official.com/ Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/fila.official, or Twitter handle, @FILA_Official.