New Delhi: India's wrestling icons Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt on Thursday said they won't hesitate to return their Olympic medals if it helps the sport stay at the 2020 Games.
Their comments come after wrestlers from Bulgaria and Russia, Valentin Yordanov and Sagid Murtazaliev, returned their Olympic medals last month to protest against the decision of the International Olympic Committee to drop wrestling from the 2020 Summer Games. The ancient sport still has a chance to be reinstated in the Olympic programme if the IOC votes in its favour at a meeting in May.
"We will return our medals if it helps to keep wrestling in the Olympics. We are what we are because of the game and it is much bigger than the individual," said Yogeshwar, bronze winner at the London Olympics, at the launch of Mountain Dew's 'Push for Wrestling' campaign. Sushil, the first Indian to win medals in back-to-back Olympics, echoed the sentiments of his childhood friend.
"We just started doing well in wrestling and it will be a great loss for India if the sport is not there in 2020. So many kids who have taken up the sport recently are already aiming for an Olympic medal," said the bronze winner of Beijing and silver medallist in London. On returning his medal in protest, Sushil said: "I am confident wrestling will be back in the Olympic fold. The next IOC meeting is very crucial. Tokyo is in fray to host the 2020 edition and if they win the bid, wrestling nation Japan is likely to push for the sport's inclusion.
"So far, our seniors and coaches have not advised us to return the medals but we won't hold back from doing that if the need arises." Wrestling is fighting against squash, softball, baseball, karate, sport climbing, wakeboarding, wushu and rollersports for that one spot in 2020.
After the meeting in May, the full IOC session will ratify the changes in the Olympic programme in Buenos Aires in September. Meanwhile, Sushil and Yogeshwar confirmed their participation in the next month's Asian Championships in New Delhi.