Rumble on the Rails

Wrestling’s chances of 2020, 2024 Olympic inclusion

Leave a comment

The International Olympic Committee will make the second of three major votes at its session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Sunday.

Nearly 100 IOC members will choose one of three sports — baseball/softball, squash and wrestling — for inclusion in the 2020 and 2024 Olympics from 11-11:45 a.m. Eastern time. For more on what happens Sunday, click here.

OlympicTalk will look at each sport’s pitch. Here is a rundown of wrestling:

Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs gets one question more than any other from young, impressionable wrestlers.

Will wrestling be back in the Olympics?

The definitive answer is about to come down, seven months after wrestling was recommended to be dropped from the Games. Burroughs, 25, fought hard to capture gold in London, winning four matches in one day. He joined a different fight on Feb. 12, when he saw a BBC World News report of wrestling’s axing in a hotel near a German airport where he had a layover en route to Iran for a competition.

“I spent a bunch of time after the Olympic Games telling kids around the nation that if they dream, if they work hard and sacrifice, they can be an Olympic champion as well,” he said in a phone interview. “(After Feb. 12), I told everyone to stay optimistic, continue to work hard. The big picture is, regardless of whether the Olympics continue to keep wrestling or not, it’s still a really great sport.”

Wrestling has long been at the heart at the Olympic movement, which is what made February’s news so shocking. Some thought modern pentathlon would have been dropped. Instead, the IOC executive board tapped a sport that dates to the ancient Olympics and has been part of the Olympic program at every modern Games except 1900.

Squash’s chances at Olympic inclusion

Wrestling’s leaders knew all hope was not lost. In May, the IOC would pick three sports as finalists to fill the opening. In September, it would choose the replacement. Wrestling was eligible to try to get its spot back without missing any Games.

Since February, its international federation (FILA) made sweeping changes and campaigned vigorously. “Keep Olympic Wrestling” and “Save Olympic Wrestling” became mottos at special events where the U.S. and wrestling powers Iran and Russia united.

Swiss Raphael Martinetti resigned as FILA president in February. Nenad Lalovic of Serbia came in and brought the sport to where it is today, a favorite to stay in the Games. The Associated Press dubbed its chances “a virtual lock” to beat baseball-softball and squash.

What could hold wrestling back? Voters may want fresh blood in the Games, or they may not want to reverse February’s decision.

Lalovic, described as a chain smoker, burly and charismatic by media, was asked to rate his confidence level this week.

“Confidence, that’s a hard word,” he said in a phone interview. “Anyway, I’m optimistic, keeping in mind we’ve done everything possible for our sport, for this sport, in six months.”

Madrid’s chances of hosting 2020 Olympics

The changes included a move toward gender equality, recommended by the IOC. It added two weight classes to women’s freestyle, cutting one men’s freestyle and one men’s Greco-Roman class. That makes six classes each for the three disciplines. The scoring system and rules were also simplified.

Retired Olympic wrestlers joined Hollywood celebrities and stars from other spots in supporting the cause. Like 2000 Olympic champion Rulon Gardner, whose work included an appearance with 2008 Olympic champion Henry Cejudo on “The Tonight Show” with wrestling supporter Jay Leno in March.

Istanbul’s chances of hosting 2020 Olympics

Gardner said this week he had zero confidence going into the vote, not that he thinks wrestling will lose but because he’s staying cautious.

“I don’t take anything for granted,” he said. “I know some people are like, ‘Oh yeah, no problem, we’re in.’ Uh-uh.”

Burroughs’ immediate plans won’t change after he sees the IOC decision Sunday. He’ll return to the mat in preparation for another transatlantic flight next week. Destination Budapest, Hungary, for the World Championships.

“I’ll be watching very closely,” Burroughs said. “I know all the wrestling fans will be posted by their computers, by their laptops, waiting for the decision to be made.”

Key information for IOC session in Buenos Aires

U.S. men’s soccer blanks Canada, reaches Olympic qualifying playoff

Marc Pelosi
Leave a comment

The U.S. under-23 men’s soccer team kept its Olympic qualifying hopes alive by beating Canada 2-0 in the CONCACAF tournament’s third-place game in Sandy, Utah, on Tuesday night.

Midfielder Marc Pelosi and forward Jerome Kiesewetter scored in the 69th and 84th minutes, respectively, with Canada playing with 10 men for the entire second half.

The U.S. will qualify for the Rio Olympics if — and only if — it beats Colombia in a one-game playoff in Rio de Janeiro in March.

The U.S. failed to qualify for the 2004 and 2012 Olympic tournaments and hasn’t won a men’s soccer medal since 1904, when the Olympic tournament included three teams.

The Americans missed an earlier chance to clinch a Rio Olympic spot when they lost 2-0 to Honduras in the CONCACAF tournament semifinals Saturday.

If the U.S. qualifies for Rio, it can swap in a maximum of three players born before Jan. 1, 1993, to its roster for the Olympics.

The U.S. took advantage of the over-age exception to add World Cup veterans in 2008 (Brian McBride) and 2000 (Brad Friedel).

The U.S. can already add three World Cup veterans without using any over-age spots, since John BrooksJulian Green and DeAndre Yedlin will still be eligible for the U-23 team in 2016. Even though none were used in CONCACAF qualifying.

The 2016 Olympic men’s soccer tournament field:

Brazil — possibly with Neymar
Argentina — 2008 Olympic champion when it had Lionel Messi
Germany — possibly with Philipp Lahm, but unlikely for Mesut Özil
Portugal — possibly with 2004 Olympian Cristiano Ronaldo
Sweden — possibly with Zlatan Ibrahimovic
U.S. or Colombia
Three Asian nations determined in January
Three African nations determined in December

MORE SOCCER: Jurgen Klinsmann’s journey to an Olympic bronze medal

Watch ‘Race’ film about Jesse Owens teaser video

Leave a comment

“Race,” a film about Olympic sprint legend Jesse Owens, will hit theaters Feb. 19.

Owens, who won four gold medals at the Berlin 1936 Olympics in the face of Nazi Germany, is played by Stephan James in the film.

Jason Sudeikis and Jeremy Irons are also in the cast for the Focus Features film, according to reports. Sudeikis will reportedly play Owens’ coach, Larry Snyder. Irons will play Avery Brundage, then the president of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

MORE TRACK AND FIELD: Angelina Jolie discusses her decision to use Jesse Owens in ‘Unbroken’