Get ready for the “Rumble on the Rails”

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The U.S., Iranian, and Russian wrestling teams are set to square-off Wednesday at New York’s historic Grand Central Station for “The Rumble on the Rails,” in hopes that their competitive cooperation can save their beloved sport from being removed from the 2020 Olympic Games.

“In this crisis, we all stick together. Wrestlers maybe can do, sometimes, what politicians cannot,” FILA President Nenad Lalovic told the AP. “We love our sport, and we are united to save it.”

Wrestling was recommended for removal during an IOC vote in February, where it was last in all five rounds after executive board members scrutinized everything from ticket sales, to anti-doping policies, TV ratings, and worldwide popularity.

But a community of Olympic, amateur, pro wrestlers, and MMA fighters have rallied around the effort to #KeepOlympicWrestling. Now the three teams, which combined for 21 medals in London last summer, including nine gold, will attempt to show the world why their sport deserves to be in the Games.

The athletes will also hold a pre-meet press conference at the United Nations before heading down the street to compete at Grand Central Station’s Vanderbilt Hall for the competition, which will include a dual freestyle meet between the U.S. and Iran followed by a meet between the U.S. and Russia featuring both freestyle and Greco-Roman. USA Wrestling is also planning to include some rules changes as part of an international effort to show how the sport can evolve for a new audience.

The event will be the first time the Iranian team competed on American soil in ten years. The two teams wrestled at a meet in Tehran back in February, with the American team shaking hands and taking pictures with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at an awards ceremony after the event.

Relations between Iran and the U.S. have been fractured since protestors stormed the American embassy and held 52 people hostage in 1979. But they’re standing “arm-in-arm” for the sake of wrestling.

“It is an exciting opportunity for wrestling to show the world its ability to bring together nations of different political, cultural and geographic backgrounds,” USA Wrestling’s Rich Bender said last month.

Wrestling’s efforts have been compared to the famous “Ping-pong Diplomacy” of the early-1970s, when U.S. and Chinese players competed against one another in friendly tournaments that are believed to have paved the way for then President Nixon to visit Beijing.

Wrestling fans can catch “The Rumble on the Rails” live on NBC Sports Network Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. ET, and a dual meet between the U.S. and Russia on Universal Sports Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. ET

Olympian Derrick Mein ends U.S. men’s trap drought at shotgun worlds

Derrick Mein
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Tokyo Olympian Derrick Mein became the first U.S. male shooter to win a world title in the trap event since 1966, prevailing at the world shotgun championships in Osijek, Croatia, on Wednesday.

Mein, who grew up on a small farm in Southeast Kansas, hunting deer and quail, nearly squandered a place in the final when he missed his last three shots in the semifinal round after hitting his first 22. He rallied in a sudden-death shoot-off for the last spot in the final by hitting all five of his targets.

He hit 33 of 34 targets in the final to win by two over Brit Nathan Hales with one round to spare.

The last U.S. man to win an Olympic trap title was Donald Haldeman in 1976.

Mein, 37, was 24th in his Olympic debut in Tokyo (and placed 13th with Kayle Browning in the mixed-gender team event).

The U.S. swept the Tokyo golds in the other shotgun event — skeet — with Vincent Hancock and Amber English. Browning took silver in women’s trap.

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Mo Farah withdraws before London Marathon

Mo Farah
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British track legend Mo Farah withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon, citing a right hip injury before what would have been his first 26.2-mile race in nearly two years.

Farah, who swept the 2012 and 2016 Olympic track titles at 5000m and 10,000m, said he hoped “to be back out there” next April, when the London Marathon returns to its traditional month after COVID moved it to the fall for three consecutive years. Farah turns 40 on March 23.

“I’ve been training really hard over the past few months and I’d got myself back into good shape and was feeling pretty optimistic about being able to put in a good performance,” in London, Farah said in a press release. “However, over the past 10 days I’ve been feeling pain and tightness in my right hip. I’ve had extensive physio and treatment and done everything I can to be on the start line, but it hasn’t improved enough to compete on Sunday.”

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

Sunday’s London Marathon men’s race is headlined by Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Birhanu Legese, the second- and third-fastest marathoners in history.

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