The Lithuania Tribune: Saving Olympic wrestling

20.03.2013 | World News RSS

The Lithuania Tribune: Saving Olympic wrestling



The 12th of February, 2013 has been recently labelled as ‘doomsday’ by many members of the world’s wrestling community.

The day played host to the first IOC (International Olympic Committee) gathering for 2013 where the sport of wrestling was eliminated from the 25 core sports guaranteed to take place in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games via a secret ballot in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The IOC board acted after reviewing the 26 sports on the current Olympic program. Eliminating one sport allows the International Olympic Committee to add a new sport to the programme later this year.

“This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics,” says IOC spokesman Mark Adams.

“In the view of the executive board, this was the best programme for the Olympic Games in 2020. It’s not a case of what’s wrong with wrestling; it is what’s right with the 25 core sports”.

Although it can be reaccepted into the Olympics by the IOC it will now have to compete with baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding, wrestling, and wushu for the final spot this upcoming May.

Large nations such as USA, Russia, Iran, Japan and Bulgaria have been headlined as the opposition against the IOC’s vote while, on a far smaller scale, many Lithuanians have voiced their opinions.

Prior to the commencement of the 2013 Lithuanian Junior Greco-Roman Wrestling Championship held in Anyksciai (birthplace of Olympic swimmer Giedrius Titenis) more than a hundred contestants unfurled a poster with the words “SAVE OLYMPIC WRESTLING”, printed in English for International recognition.

“With this campaign, we have shown solidarity with thousands of wrestling fans around the world and the concerns of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Committee recommendations included wrestling in the 2020 Olympic Games in the main program,” commented Giedrius Dambrauskas, the vice president and senior competition judge of Lithuania’s wrestling federation.

Since Lithuania’s declaration of Independence on March 11, 1991, the small nation has participated in every Summer Olympic Wrestling tournament.

Remigijus Sukevicius was Lithuania’s sole representative in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics; unfortunately he would be unable to record a victory facing back to back defeats, 2:4 v. Nikolay Dimitrov (Bulgaria) and 3:4 v. Dennis Hall (USA), in the opening rounds of the Men’s Greco-Roman (57 kg) division.

Sukevicius would return four years later in Atlanta to record a famous 11-0 second round win over his Tunisian opponent Nabil Sahli only to be defeated the following round by the narrowest of margins, finishing 12th overall for the tournament.

1996 would also see the unveiling of Armenian/Lithuanian Ruslanas Vartanovas, however even he would be unable to reach the podium in the 52kg division, placing 14th.

The most successful Lithuanian that year was definitely Ricardas Pauliukonis who, while competing in the 90kg division, recorded two large wins 12:0 & 11:0 only to be defeated by the eventual Georgian Bronze medallist Eldar Kurtanidze; a 9th place overall.

Pauliukonis and Kurtanidze would meet again in Sydney at the start of the new millennium, this time as freestyle wrestlers. Unfortunately for Lithuanian fans, it would again be the Georgian who would taste success

Mindaugas Ezerskis was the only Men’s Greco-Roman participant for Lithuania that year although despite recording two confident wins he was unable to reach the knockout round, finishing 8th in the 97kg division.

Svajunas Adomaitis (55kg) and Mindaugas Mizgaitis (120kg) would each make their Olympic debuts under the wing of Ezerskis in 2004, however not one of the Lithuanians were able to place in the top ten of their divisions, placing 16th, 11th and 13th respectively.

Though it seemed unlikely for many years, the pounded of the Chinese drums in the 2008 Beijing Olympics appeared to have handed Mizgaitis the edge over his French opponent Yannick Szczepaniak in the 120kg Bronze medal bout.

The 2:0 set win would enable Mizgaitis to become Lithuania’s maiden Olympic medallist in wrestling history.

Ezerskis (96kg) and Valdemaras Venckaitis (74kg) also recorded minor wins while Olympic debutant Aleksandr Kazakevicius (66kg) would be eliminated after his opening bout.

Kazakevicius’ work effort would increase over the following four years and, after winning a Bronze medal at the 2012 Youth Olympics, he would join Mizgaitis in London as an Olympic medallist after reaching the semi-final round in the 74kg division.

Edgaras Venckaitis would also compete in London, placing 7th in the 66kg division.

Shortly after winning his Bronze medal last year Kazakevicius stated he was eyeing the ultimate, a gold medal, in the 2016 Olympic tournament.

Unless theIOC can make a dramatic step back, 2016 looks like the last roll of the die for both Kazakevicius and Lithuania.

One can only hope the Lithuanians can go for gold!

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