Carol Huynh: Introducing the new sport of wrestling

Tuesday, 03 September 2013
Carol HuynhLater this week, I will have the honour of being part of the team that makes wrestling's final presentation to the full membership of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This will be, without question, one of the most important days in the three thousand year history of our sport, but it will be especially significant for women around the world.

Women's wrestling officially joined the Olympic programme at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games and as we approach our ten-year anniversary, we are faced with the possibility of disappearing from the very programme we fought so hard to be a part of.

To understand how important opportunities for women's wrestling are, you only need to look at my fellow presentation team member, Lise Legrand and myself. Both of us were originally inspired by male wrestlers to try our hand at what was a male-dominated sport. It is our hope that our hard work, determination and our Olympic medals, now serve as inspiration to young female wrestlers from around the world to break down gender barriers and achieve their own personal dreams.

And now our sport will embrace the Olympic dreams of female athletes more than ever. Starting at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, FILA has added two additional weight classes for women while reducing two for men, providing the opportunity for more women to participate in the Olympic Games. These women will not only add more excitement to the Olympic Games, but when they return home, they will encourage even more women to participate in sport.

Over the last six months, the Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA), now under the direction of its new President, Nenad Lalovic, has introduced additional groundbreaking changes that have modernised this ancient sport. These changes were necessary and if we are honest, we should have initiated them on our own and long ago.

Nenad Lalovic, pictured with IOC President Jacques Rogge, has led a period of groundbreaking change for wrestlingNenad Lalovic, pictured with IOC President Jacques Rogge, has led a period of groundbreaking change for wrestling


It took significant action from the IOC Executive Board for us to recognise what we needed to do. We have made tremendous progress in just six short months and I am excited about how our sport will evolve even further. We will accept nothing less than a "new wrestling", which is an innovative, exciting and modern sport.

FILA has created or restructured seventeen Commissions to better govern our sport and we are ensuring gender and athlete participation and balance on each Commission. This new governance will dramatically improve our sport every day, not just in Olympic years. I have taken this restructuring and the possibilities that come with it to heart, as I have decided to stand for one of the seats available to athletes. I want to help ensure that these changes are enacted and we continue to make improvements to our sport.

The new rule changes make sure that wrestling is about speed, strength and strategy. A wrestler can no longer be passive and win a match. The point system has changed to reward action, which is making our sport more attractive to spectators, the media and sponsors. Wrestlers at our junior and cadet levels learned this at their recently completed World Championships and have shared positive feedback with FILA on the new scoring system.

Social media is playing a big part in the campaign to save Olympic wrestlingSocial media is playing a big part in the campaign to save Olympic wrestling


Wrestling is focusing on digital technology and social media, as well. Over the last six months, FILA has incorporated Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more into its daily communications with FILA Bureau Members, wrestlers of all nationalities and Olympic wrestling fans. FILA's Facebook page and Twitter account are now followed by a record number of fans enjoying photos, videos and content provided by FILA.

But perhaps, more importantly, FILA uses its social media accounts to listen to its fans and it welcomes their feedback and suggestions. Additionally, FILA has discussed transforming the presentation of their sport with the Olympic Broadcasting Services and television broadcast experts. Possible additions to the broadcast include incorporating mini Point of View cameras closer to the field of play to provide a unique point of view and capturing biometrics data from the wrestlers throughout the match.

Each of these changes I have mentioned will have a global impact, as it affects the 177 National Federations of our sport - proof that wrestling truly is a universal sport that offers access to the dream of Olympic participation, to women and men, no matter their economic situation or location.

From this point forward, not only will the sport of wrestling continue to transform and modernise, but in doing so, it will mean new opportunities for youth, new chances for relations between countries and new inspiration for women everywhere that they too can realise their dreams, regardless of what challenges may stand in their way.

Carol Huynh is a Canadian double Pan American champion wrestler. She won a gold medal in the 48kg division at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, which she followed up with a further gold at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games and bronze at London 2012. Follow her on Twitter here.
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