By: Emil C. Noguera and Josef T. Ramos (Manila Times)

The Wrestling Association of the Philippines (WAP) has expressed elation over the International Olympic Committee-General Assembly (IOC-GA) vote to retain wrestling in the 2020 and 2024 editions of the Olympic Games.

“During that seven months of confusion, we did not stop posting messages and sending letters to the IOC to reconsider its early decision of abolishing wrestling in the Olympics,” WAP President Albert Balde, 41, told The Manila Times in a phone interview.

“At last, our faith and prayers are already answered positively,” he added. “How can you remove the sport that started the ancient Olympics? Anyway, what’s important now is that they voted to return wrestling where it truly belongs – in the Olympics.”

Balde is currently busy preparing Filipino wrestlers that will compete in the Myanmar Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) in December.
“Now with wrestling back in the Olympics, we can focus on the SEAG,” said Balde, noting that the national team has left for an intense wrestling training in Iran over the weekend.

The WAP also believes that Filipino wrestlers can win a gold medal in the Olympics.

“We believe we have a great shot at winning a medal—hopefully, gold—in the 2020 and 2024 Olympics,” said WAP Secretary General Karlo Sevilla. “The international wrestling community, led by the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) and our president Nenad Lalovic, united in showing passion, determination and innovation in the campaign to keep our sport in the Olympics – right until the FILA panel’s presentation to convince the IOC GA membership of our case immediately before the vote, resulting to our majority win.”

The WAP also hailed the move to include wrestling in the 2014 Palarong Pambansa initially as demonstration (based on “Republic Act 10588) as one of the sports to be contested among high school students in the annual national youth games.”

“This is especially encouraging as our wrestling is all set to make its debut in the 2014 Palarong Pambansa. Definitely, the talents we’ll discover in the coming games of the Palarong Pambansa of DepEd and Batang Pinoy of the Philippine Olympic Committee-Philippine Sports Commission (POC-PSC) will enjoy sufficient time, years, to mature as potential Olympic qualifiers and winners, come the third decade of this century,” added Sevilla.

Wrestling is one of the 10 priority sports of the PSC citing its impressive showing in its previous international tournaments including the 2011 Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia. The national wrestlers won two gold, three silver and three bronze medals.

“Add to this wrestling’s status as among PSC’s 10 priority sports for the second straight year, receiving significantly more support than other sports, and we can’t help feeling confident in achieving our Olympic objectives.

“WAP looks forward to enjoying with DepEd what we have with the POC and PSC: an efficient and harmonious working relationship in promoting sports among the youth, and developing future Pinoy Olympic champions,” Sevilla concluded.