Olympic champion Carol Huynh believes wrestling is one of the purest sports.
There’s no equipment, no padding – just “your hands, your heart and your mind.”
“Those are the things that you bring to the Olympic Games with this sport,” Huynh said. “I feel very strongly about this.”
The 32-year-old hopes to convey that when she and fellow Olympic gold medallist Daniel Igali plead their sport’s case to the International Olympic Committee on May 29 in a bid to keep wrestling on the Games program.
Huynh, a native of Hazelton, B.C., made history at the 2008 Beijing Olympics as Canada’s first female gold medallist in the sport, and then went on to win bronze last summer in London before retiring from competition.
She was floored when she heard the IOC’s decision in February to remove wrestling from the 2020 Olympics.
“I was just shocked, I had no idea this was happening, I had no idea that there was any decision like this coming about at that time. It just blew my mind,” Huynh said Thursday at an athletes summit for the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
Huynh said there are two avenues wrestling can take to be reinstated. The first is at the May 29 IOC meeting where wrestling will compete with seven other sports for a provisional spot in the 2020 Games. Officials also will lobby the 114-member IOC General Session in September in Buenos Aires in hopes of overturning the executive board’s original recommendation by a simple majority vote.
Huynh, who coaches now, will attend an international wrestling congress May 16-19 in Moscow where some of the sport’s biggest names will map out their next moves.
One would think history alone would be enough, she said, to keep wrestling in the Olympics.
“I might be biased, but when I think of the Olympics, I think of track, I think of the marathon, I think of wrestling absolutely,” she said. “It was part of the Ancient Olympic Games as well as in the very first modern Olympic Games.”
The sport also has accessibility on its side. It doesn’t require much equipment, just a training partner. And it’s an activity that people do naturally growing up.
“You don’t necessarily join a wrestling team, but as a kid you wrestle around with your siblings, or your dog even,” she said. “It feels like it’s just a natural human movement, and I think that’s what the Olympics is all about, the celebration of human movement and wrestling is a huge piece of that.
“When I think about wrestling, it’s not always about the winning, it’s not always about being on top of the podium, it’s about the determination, the hard work that kids can develop as a person.”
Huynh and Igali – a gold medallist at the 2000 Sydney Games – will be part of a six-member team at the May 29 IOC presentation in St. Petersburg, Russia, that also includes three-time Olympic champion Aleksandr Karelin.
The sport’s gender issues, including the fact there is no women’s Greco Roman wrestling, played a part in the IOC board’s recommendation to drop both Greco-Roman and freestyle disciplines from the 2020 program. Huynh said she’s been asked to be a part of a women’s advisory council for the sport.
FILA, wrestling’s world governing, has declared May “World Wrestling Month.” Wrestling Canada also launched “Save Olympic Wrestling Wednesdays” – athletes and others in the sport take to social media every Wednesday to drum up support and awareness.
Wrestling will be up against a combined baseball-softball bid, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and martial arts karate and wushu in its fight for Olympic inclusion. The board could select a short list of three sports to submit to the full IOC assembly, which will make the final decision at its September session in Argentina.