Building a sporting heritage the old-fashioned way: one foot on the present and the other into the future
When people think of wrestling in Britain they probably think of the BBC’s World of Sport in the 70s with its high-booted, tight pants villains, heroes, underdogs and pantomimes. And that evolved out of necessity after WWII when telly was looking for content, and men from the midlands industrial belt were looking for extra income. But that isn’t Olympic Wrestling.
Today, Olympic Wrestling (freestyle and Greco-roman) has undergone a Renaissance. Booted from the Olympics after 2012 because of the World governing body’s over-estimation of its untouchability in the pantheon of Olympic sports, several nations that hitherto struggled to speak to each other banded together with common purpose to get the original Olympic sport back into the Olympics. And they did. And it is back in the Olympics, provisionally until 2024 or until the governing body proves that Wrestling deserves to be back as a “core” sport. And Olympic Wrestling is again humble and grateful … and ambitious.
As Chairman, my role is to build wrestling into a sport that every secondary school and University has in its sporting curriculum, and to unleash the latent talent within the 64 million people that live in Britain. We have seen cycling, athletics, rowing and sailing punch well above its weight for Great Britain in international competitions over the years, and British Olympic Wrestling will endeavour to continue that ambitious tradition.
There isn’t a MMA/UFC fighter worth his or her salt (or of Champion calibre), who isn’t a wrestler – body and soul. But of course, those sports only offer prize money and belts too gauche to wear. To win a gold medal for your country in the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, or European Championships, you need to be a wrestler. And the opportunities for women are unparalleled at the moment. Introduced into the 2004 Olympics, women’s freestyle wrestling has yet to see its fiercest competitors - they are still in the making. And sports that have a natural cross-over: gymnastics, rock-climbing, rugby, judo/jujitsu - are sending their athletes onto the mats for a competitive advantage in their sport, and for the possibility of doing a second one.
The value set that British Wrestling stands for and promotes are courage, ambition, discipline and dynamis (ancient Greek for the Will to Win). These values are inherent in the movement and techniques of the sport and your desire to compete in it. It’s isn’t philosophical, it’s physical. To do is to become. If you think you like this sport, whether doing or watching, you have the seeds of these values in you already.
Wrestling in the UK is a minor sport, where the funding comes predominantly from Sport England. Sport England’s goals are to increase participation in sport from the ages of 14-25. There is great scope for people interested in Olympic wrestling to get involved. We need ambitious, disciplined people who have the courage and desire to bring wrestling into people’s minds and hearts.
Have a look at one of the most respected and loved Olympic wrestlers who hails from one of Great Britain’s children. In 2020 we will have our own video to show.
If you want to know more, please email me or visit www.britishwrestling.org. We are looking for athletes, coaches, referees, event organizers and business people to lead British wrestling now and in the future.
Cary Depel is the Chairman of the British Olympic Wrestling Association