Women's wrestling should be added to the 2004 Athens Olympics, the International Olympic Committee says, a change which could mean places on the podium for Canada's world championship medalists.
But before tallying the hardware on the mat, there's another international fight looming, Greg Mathieu, executive director of the Canadian Amateur Wrestling Association, said.
At least two men's weight divisions would need to disappear -- by dropping or combining divisions -- to make way for four women's classes.
"Canada favours it, but it will have to be approved by the international wrestling federation [FILA]" Mathieu said. "That won't go over well with many of the Muslim countries who are strong and influential in wrestling. In some of them, women don't compete in sport at all, let alone wrestling."
It's a different story in North America, where women's wrestling is a competitive university-level sport. Calgary school teacher Christine Nordhagen-Vierling has been world champion four times in the 68-kilogram category and once at 75 kilograms. She was to have led Canada into the now-postponed world championships in New York this month.
Also on that team are two world medalists, Erica Sharp of Whitehorse, who won bronze last year at 56 kilograms, and Carol Huynh of Vancouver, 1998 silver medalist at 46 kilograms. Another medal favourite is heavyweight Ohenewa Akuffo of Guelph, Ont., who won the 75-kilogram gold at two 2001 international meets, the Polish invitation and and Canada Cup. Canada also has a junior world champion, Tara Hedican of Guelph at 52 kilograms.
The wrestling change was one of several recommended by the IOC to increase women's participation in the 2004 Olympics. Others include the addition of women's sabre fencing and two more women's teams in waterpolo and two more in soccer. Boxing would be left as the only Olympic discipline without an event for females.
"It's nice that Sydney was not an isolated incident, that breakthroughs for women in sport didn't stop at the Games of the new millennium," Phyllis Berck, chairperson elect of the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport, said.
IOC sports director Gilbert Felli said quotas were imposed in some sports to stop the rampant overgrowth of the Olympics. "Until now, we added an average of 20 or more events per games since the 1950s."
The IOC plan calls for 10,508 athletes competing in 299 events in Athens. In Sydney there were 10,655 athletes in 300 events.
The most significant cut would come in boxing, with the elimination of one weight division and 26 boxers. Felli said he believed the super heavyweight category would go. The IOC introduced maximums in track (2,000 athletes) and swimming (1,300). Rejected were requests for additional entries in swimming, baseball and tennis.