Russia’s Sagid Murtazalie, following the lead of Bulgarian champion Valentin Yordanov, has also returned his gold medal to the IOC Tuesday, in protest of the organization’s recommendation to remove the sport from the 2020 Olympics.
“The decision to return my Olympic medal was not easy for me,” Murtazaliev, the Sydney 2000 heavyweight champ, said in a letter to IOC president Jacques Rogge.
It leaves us to wonder whether passionate American champions like Rulon Gardner or Kurt Angle will be joining their wrestling brethren in returning their medals. But USA Wrestling spokesman Gary Abbott told USA Today that it’s not likely to happen:
“Each wrestling nation and each individual athlete will do what they can to keep the issue in front of the world,” Abbott said. “I don’t think there’s been a call within the wrestling community to do this. I think these are individual statements being made by individual athletes wanting to make a difference in the discussion. We haven’t heard that from any of our athletes.”
But USA Wrestling is being proactive by creating the Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling, and by putting aside diplomatic issues with countries like Iran and Russia in order for wrestlers from those nations to join each other in the common goal of returning wrestling to its Olympic status.
Wrestling’s first challenge will be a vote in St. Petersburg in May, which will determine which of the eight prospective sports, including squash, karate, wakeboarding, sport climbing, roller sports, wushu, and baseball/softball, will move on to the final IOC vote in September. That vote will determine which sport will fill the one open spot in the 2020 Olympics schedule.