Wrestling worth its weight in gold

Today we learned the sport of wrestling will remain on the Olympic programme as the IOC announced the sport’s inclusion for Tokyo 2020.

Though baseball, softball and squash will be missed as they continue their fight to be slotted on the schedule, wrestling has proven its weight in gold.

And in Canada, this means more than just the chance to win medals.

When Daniel Igali wrapped himself in the Canadian flag in 2000, so too did the country itself. We celebrated excellence, we celebrated gold, and we celebrated a better Canadian life through sport: the sport of wrestling.

As the Nigerian-born refugee cloaked himself in the maple leaf after winning his gold medal in Sydney, Canada was reminded of how critically important the sport of wresting is to the fabric of our nation.

“Thank you to a country that gave me life,” said Igali after being inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame last summer.  “Thanks for the opportunities you gave (me) to excel in a profession that I can never match.”

COC Photo: Mike Ridewood

Carol Huynh

These are the iconic moments (and people) that we must continue to fight for as a country.

Canada has 16 Olympic wrestling medals, including Igali’s gold and another from Hazelton, B.C.’s Carol Huynh from Beijing 2008 who also has a bronze from the 2012 Games in London.

Huynh is more than just an advocate for the longevity of a sport that gave her and Canada so much. She is an international force — with a strong presence on social media and part of the team that presented wrestling’s case to the IOC.

Also on the all-time Olympic podium is Tonya Verbeek (Beamsville, ON), who has two silver and one bronze over her career and recently joined Wrestling Canada as a talent identification coach.

COC Photo: Mike Ridewood

Tonya Verbeek

These are just three names that barely scratch the surface of defining an Olympic sport that dates back to the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and is practiced and organized in 180 affiliated countries from around the world. It had 71 nations competing at the Olympic Games in London, and 29 different nations won medals.

Canada has had an Olympic finalist in each of the last six Olympic Games.

The IOC’s decision Sunday to include wrestling on the Olympic programme is an important reminder that the power of sport goes far beyond just the wrestling mat.