Wrestling power Japan, which swept four gold in London, reacted with dismay after Olympic chiefs said the 2020 Games would not include the sport, depriving the country of a rich source of medals.
“I really don’t know why. I am so devastated that I don’t know what to do,” said Saori Yoshida, Japan’s undisputed wrestling queen who has won a record 13 straight Olympic and world championship gold medals over 10 years.
Yoshida, a 55kg-class freestyle wrestler who last year received the government’s “People’s Honour Award” for her achievements, is the face of Tokyo’s campaign for the right to host the 2020 Games.
The decision to drop wrestling, taken by the 15 members of the International Olympic Committee executive board, has yet to be ratified by all members of the body, but leaves the sport fighting with seven other disciplines for the vacant spot in seven years’ time.
Japan Wrestling Federation chairman Tomiaki Fukuda expressed his frustration at the decision.
“I am really shocked. I have no idea why they decided this,” Fukuda said in an interview with TV Asahi.
He has also said on the federation’s website: “I am dissatisfied and baffled. I want to know the reasons why the IOC removed wrestling.”
Local media dubbed the IOC decision a “crisis for Japan’s strong suit”.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also expressed 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.”
This is the latest blow to Japanese sport after the national women’s judo coach resigned in disgrace after admitting he had physically beaten his athletes as he tried to discipline them.
That scandal came just weeks after a schoolboy killed himself after repeatedly being subjected to violence by his basketball coach.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]