Olympians and Wrestlers React to Decision To Cut Sport From 2020 Games

A photo of Henry Cejudo, a wrestling gold medalist in 2008 whose parents were undocumented. DREAM Act students want to call attention to their plight through wrestling.

A photo of Henry Cejudo, a wrestling gold medalist in 2008 whose parents were undocumented. DREAM Act students want to call attention to their plight through wrestling.  (2008 Getty Images)

A surprise decision to remove wrestling – one of the Olympics oldest sports – from the 2020 Olympic Games surprised the fighting world Tuesday.

The IOC executive board decided to retain modern pentathlon — the event considered most at risk — and remove wrestling from its list of 25 "core sports."

Wrestling fans and legends of the sport reacted angrily, and even solemnly, vowing to continue fighting for wrestling to be included in the games.

“I’m distraught man.  It’s hard to comprehend what the IOC is thinking.  Wrestling has been the oldest sport in the world,” Henry Cejudo, an Olympic gold medalist who retired from the sport recently, told Fox News Latino. “It gives opportunity to anybody despite the race or the culture.” 

Cejudo was emotion as he described all the sport had provided for him, an impoverished undocumented immigrant who in 2008 became the youngest American to win a wrestling gold medal. He said he owed it to the sport to make sure it stays in the Olympics.

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“I never had any money to do the pentathalon,” he said. “Wrestling paid me to come in and do the sport.  I owe this sport.”

Bill Rosado, who wrestled for the United States at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, said he was shocked to hear the news.

“It’s very upsetting especially since it was a sport in the original Olympic games,” Rosado told Fox News Latino.  “It’s a sport where all men and women of all sizes and shapes can participate.”

The IOC board acted after reviewing the 26 sports on the current Olympic program. Eliminating one sport allows the International Olympic Committee to add a new sport to the program later this year.

Wrestling, which combines freestyle and Greco-Roman events, goes back to the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens in 1896.

Wrestling officials called Tuesday's decision to drop the sport from the Olympic program an "aberration" against a founding event.

Known by its French initials FILA, the sport's governing body said it was "greatly astonished" by the IOC decision.

"FILA will take all necessary measures to convince the IOC Executive Board and IOC members of the aberration of such decision against one of the founding sports of the ancient and modern Olympic Games," said FILA, which is based near the Olympic home city of Lausanne.

Thom Ortiz, a former Arizona State University wrestler and head coach, said the decision is discouraging for wrestlers whose sole dream is to make it into the Olympics.

“Now [my childhood dream] is not viable is what you’re saying,” Ortiz said. “Wrestling,  especially to kids of color, provides an opportunity.  We have to look at what we’ve lost for people of color.”

While many on Twitter speculate that TV ratings and coverage are a big part of the decision, Rosado would like to think that was not the case.

“I’d hate to think there’s any level of corruption with sponsors or money,” said Rosado.

Rosado, like Ortiz, believes the ruling and the removal of wrestling from the Olympics hurts minorities the most.

“This is going to affect minorities because wrestling isn’t an expensive sport,” Rosado said. “You look at golf and other sports that are expensive that poor kids can’t compete in.”

Includes reporting by The Associated Press.

Follow Victor Garcia on Twitter @MrVicGarcia.

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