March 7 - Nenad Lalovic, interim President of the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA), has claimed the sport has a golden opportunity to stay in the Olympics following his meeting today with International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge.
Wrestling has been left fighting for its Olympic future following the IOC Executive Board decision last month to controversially axe it from the list of core Games sports after Rio 2016.
It must now compete against the seven bidding sports of baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sports climbing, squash, wakeboard and wushu for a single place at the 2020 Games.
Wrestling will present to the IOC Executive Board alongside the seven other bidders at its meeting in St Petersburg on May 29-31 before a final shortlist, expected to consist of three sports, is put through to the Session in Buenos Aires in September where they will face the full IOC vote for one sport to join the 2020 Games.
Serbia's Lalovic, who replaced Raphaël Martinetti following the IOC Executive Board decision to drop wrestling as a core Olympic sport, said that he was hugely grateful for the meeting with the IOC President in Lausanne as he spearheads the global effort to keep the discipline at the Games.
"I can say that the meeting with President Rogge was very productive," Lalovic told insidethegames.
"I told him that we understood the message the IOC was sending us by dropping us as a core sport and that I didn't blame them.
"We have been asleep for too long and we didn't modernise or adapt the sport like we should have done.
"I told them that we are now trying to fix this and then I listened.
"The IOC President said we must now work our hardest to impress the IOC Executive Board by making our presentation as strong as possible when we meet them in St Petersburg in May.
"The IOC's process has given wrestling a golden opportunity to stay within the Olympics and also a golden opportunity to improve our sport at every level and to help strengthen the Olympic Movement.
"FILA have already begun a number of innovative initiatives to modernise the governance, presentation and promotion of our sport.
"We know we do not have much time, especially compare to the other bid sports, but we have enough time and the meeting was very helpful.
"Every sport, including wrestling, has to earn its place on the Olympic programme.
"We know this will take hard work and are ready for it.
"Our goal is to make a great sport better and to be stronger partners in the Olympic Family."
Lalovic also outlined plans for a FILA Congress in Moscow ahead of the presentation in St Petersburg, with May 17 set as the provisional date.
"A Congress is vital as we look to improve our sport and its governance," he said.
"There are things to sort out and we will need to see if there are any other candidates for the FILA Presidency, besides me, at this important time.
"This is a democracy after all.
"Time is against us but we are working hard as an organisation and I am working as hard as I possibly can for FILA.
"We know we have lots of support out there and we are grateful but the IOC is our only partner.
"They are the partner we must work with to help the sport.
"We have a difficult road ahead, but I am confident we can show the IOC that we deserve to remain at the Olympics."
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
February 2013: Exclusive - Rogge to meet new International Wrestling President next week