I thought I was still asleep and dreaming when I heard the news Tuesday that the International Olympic Committee has recommended dropping wrestling from the official list of Summer Games.
Especially a few days after Port Alberni hosted around 600 wrestlers for the 30th annual Alberni Wrestling Invitational.
This is the community that rallied around Travis Cross when he aspired to compete in the Olympics; Port Alberni sent the largest fan delegation to the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing just to cheer Cross on.
“It’s mind-blowing,” says Alberni Wrestling tournament director Tom McEvay. “My phone hasn’t stopped ringing, and I mean from people around the world.”
It was a bittersweet morning for him, coming down so abruptly from such a high following the tournament. Some of the high school athletes who excelled on the mats at the AV Multiplex could potentially be in the 2020 Olympics—including Alberni wrestlers like Nolan Badovinac or the Wagner twins.
McEvay might be reluctant to pit sport against sport, but I’m not. The seven other shortlisted sports for inclusion in the Summer Games are baseball/ softball, karate, roller sports (really? I mean, derby is great but does it belong at the Olympics?), sport climbing (where they will no doubt have to build an artificial facility), squash, wakeboarding and wushu (excuse me, did someone sneeze?).
I have a great respect for all sports, but some of them just aren’t suitable for the Olympics. BMX cycling, for instance.
(I would target archery, however, I happen to own a recurve bow and a couple of provincial medals so I’ll admit my bias in favour of this sport.)
Wrestling is represented on the world scene in 180 countries, and crosses both economic and social boundaries. This might be its saving grace, McEvay says. “I’m a cup-half-full kind of guy. They say the grieving process is shock, anger, sadness and resolve. I think probably the wrestling community has gone through all these stages very quickly and is at resolve.”
Wrestlers are fighters, he adds. “And there’s a battle now.”
Let’s hope the IOC pays attention.
* Susan Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor.