The widespread reforms introduced to the historic sport of wrestling gives it a very strong chance of regaining its place in the Olympics, the newly elected president of the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles said.
Nenad Lalovic has been the driving force behind the changes both to the rules and the statute since replacing Raphael Martinetti, who resigned following the decision by the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee in February to drop the sport from the 2020 Games. Lalovic, 55, said wrestling had resurfaced after a terrible period. "When you sink, it is only when you hit the bottom that you can rise again," said the Serb. "[Wrestling has] proved that. We are now super positive after taking a terrible blow."
Wrestling will face the first hurdle at regaining its spot next Wednesday, when the IOC Executive Board meets in St Petersburg, Russia, to decide which sports to recommend to the wider IOC membership at its session in Buenos Aires in early September, with eight sports up for consideration. Wrestling is widely expected to make the shortlist, with squash the closest rival, having fought an effective campaign.
However, Lalovic, who among other things has forced through a measure where there will be a woman vice-president for the first time when new elections are held next year, said he is confident that wrestling will prevail in the final showdown.
"I am confident. I believe strongly we will succeed, though … it's always possible one can lose," he said. "We have introduced reforms and now we have to use those to regain our place.
"We must put on a good presentation next week and then hopefully prepare for September," he added. "By then, we will have applied the new rules in test competitions."
Lalovic said it would take time for coaches and referees to adapt to the new rules. Instead of three two-minute periods, now there will be two three-minute periods, with more spectator friendly attacking wrestling being rewarded -this will be put to the test at the world junior championships in Sofia in August.
"This will give us the opportunity to show the IOC members in Buenos Aires how the rule changes have made a difference and aroused the interest of the spectators and the media," he said. "Small federations need time to digest such significant changes … We have a huge amount of work to do but we will do it as quickly as possible."
Lalovic said the fact that wrestling authorities had joined forces showed how much the sport's exclusion had provoked a united reaction. Indeed, wrestlers from Iran, the United States and Russia recently came together at the UN to promote the sport, and then competed against each other, with the Iranians thumping the Americans in their match.
"That is the magic of sport," he said, referring to the unity.