Locals question decision to drop wrestling from Olympics
Wrestling: Reid Watkins hopes to compete at 2016 Games
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Thursday, Feb 14, 2013 06:00 am
A three-time Canadian wrestling champion is fast-tracking his game plan as a result of a controversial decision to drop the sport he loves from the Summer Olympic Games after 2016.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Feb. 12 it will drop wrestling after the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil meaning a Holy Trinity Academy grad will have to try and qualify for the 2016 Games despite the fact his focus was on competing in 2020.
“My chances of going to the Olympics are slimmer in 2016, it is more likely I can make 2020 because I will be more experienced,” said 18-year-old Reid Watkins. “Usually wrestlers are 24 to 32 years old when they are at their prime, so 2020, is more realistic for me.”
Watkins, who won three consecutive high school provincial championships and national titles from 2010 to 2012, said the wrestling world will not take the IOC decision lying down and will appeal in the spring.
“I don’t think it will go through fully,” said Watkins, who is currently red-shirting at Simon Fraser University due to an injury. “There are so many wrestling countries and it is one of the founding sports of the Olympics. The wrestling community won’t go down with a fight.”
If wrestling is kyboshed by the IOC Watkins said he will join a long-list of wrestlers hoping to make Team Canada for the Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“If it does go through — it’s go-time for me right now. I have to prepare right now,” Watkins said. “It will be highly competitive. It is always hard, but you might have guys coming out of retirement because it will be the last Olympics.”
He said he is also concerned about the impact the decision would have on wrestling as a whole. It is a sport that only garners the spotlight every four years during the Olympics.
“That’s every kid’s dream to get to the Olympics,” he said.
Former Highwood High School wrestling coach Bill Young was also stunned by the decision.
“Wrestling is one of the oldest Olympic sports — it’s a pre-modern Olympic sport,” said Young, who won 10 provincial championships at the High River high school. “It’s also a kick in the face for Canada because we have developed a very good program — especially for women.”
He said he expects the IOC to face a lot of pressure to reinstate wrestling, which was part of the Ancient Olympic Games in Greece in 708 B.C. — or about 350 years before Plato hung out in Athens.
“I think they (the IOC) might have upset countries like Iran, Turkey and the Russians,” Young said. “I can’t believe this got past the Russians because they have been so powerful for so long, but you never know what the IOC is going to decide… If they (IOC) add a new sport, they drop another one. In this case, wrestling is the sacrificial lamb.”
Golf was added as a new sport to the Summer Olympic Games, likely as the cost of wrestling, including freestyle and Greco Roman.
One of his concerns is if the Olympics drop wrestling, it will mean a loss of funding for the sport as well and it could lead to the elimination of collegiate wrestling.
Okotoks Wrestling Club coach Doug Watkins, said he is also upset by the IOC decision.
“Wrestling meets more of the criteria for the Olympics than other sports, like the modern pentathlon for example,” said Doug Watkins, who is Reid’s father. “There are countries like Russia which wins a lot of medals, Japan was very successful at the last Olympics, the Middle East countries and India got two medals at the last Olympics… There will be an appeal.”
Some of the Olympic criteria for a sport include global participation, popularity, TV ratings and ticket sales.
There were 71 nations that competed in wrestling at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Wrestling will now compete with sports such wakeboarding, squash, karate, roller sports, climbing, the martial art wushu and a combined bid from baseball and softball to be added for 2020. The IOC will be adding up to three sports for 2020 and a decision will be made in September.