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.