Bulgarian wrestling federation president Valentin Yordanov sacrificed his Atlanta gold medal in the name of his sport Wednesday, and returned it to the IOC after its executive board recommended dropping wrestling from the Games.
“As a sign of protest I am returning my gold medal, won at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, to the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne,” the seven-time world champ wrote in a letter IOC President Jacques Rogge, according to Reuters.
“With this act I express my solidarity with the millions of athletes and fans of our sport who are condemning the recommendation of the IOC. Our sport is an integral part of the Olympic movement and one of the foundations of both the ancient and modern Olympics.”
Yordanov retired from the sport after winning the 52kg gold in 1996, one of the nation’s sixteen Olympic titles in wrestling, making it Bulgaria’s most successful sport. Two-time Olympic champ and current Bulgarian Greco-Roman coach Armen Nazarian said he’s considering going on a hunger strike.
But amid all the backlash, Yordanov conceded that the IOC’s decision has actually been good for world politics, adding that Rogge “unreservedly united Russia, the United States, and Iran for a single cause – saving the sport of wrestling, without which the Olympics will never be the same.”
The IOC executive board will meet this May in St. Petersburg to vote on which of the eight prospective sports, including wrestling, squash, karate, wushu, sport climbing, roller sports, wakeboarding, and baseball/softball, will be voted on when all the IOC members meet this September to discuss how to fill a single slot in the 2020 Olympics schedule.