The International Olympic Committee’s decision to drop wrestling from the 2020 Games knocked the wind out of wrestling powerhouse Japan, shocking athletes and sports officials.
The severe blow could deprive the country of a “strong suit” after bringing home six of the country’s 38 medals at last summer’s London Olympics, including four of its seven gold medals. Tokyo is currently bidding to host the 2020 Games along with Madrid and Istanbul.
Japanese sports authorities were frustrated by the IOC’s decision.
“I am really shocked. I have no idea why they decided this,” Japan Wrestling Federation chairman Tomiaki Fukuda said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressed his disappointment at the IOC vote. “Wrestling is one of Japan’s strongest sports,” he said. “It is said to be the oldest sport in the world… The decision is very disappointing”.
“I cannot believe it,” said three-time Olympic gold medalist Saori Yoshida. “This is nothing but shocking and frustrating”.
Yoshida, Japan’s undisputed wrestling queen has won a record 13 straight Olympic and world championship gold medals over the 10 years. She is also the face of Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Games.
The IOC’s 15-member executive board voted on Tuesday to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympic programme and keep modern pentathlon – a combination of fence, horse riding, swimming, running and shooting – after reviewing a report by the IOC program commission report.
Wrestling ranked “low” in several of the technical criteria, including popularity with the public at the London Games, according to AP.
“This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “In the view of the executive board, this was the best program for the Olympic Games in 2020. It’s not the case of what’s wrong with wrestling; it is what’s right with the 25 core sports.”