By Duncan Mackay

Nenad LalovicFebruary 17 - A special committee, backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been set-up by the new leadership at the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) to coordinate the sport's campaign to keep it on the Olympic programme after Rio 2016. 

Serbia's Nenad Lalovic (pictured top), who was yesterday chosen to replace Raphaël Martinetti as interim President by FILA's ruling Bureau after the Swiss lost a vote of no confidence, has appointed Japan's Tomiaki Fukuda and Turkey's Rodica Maria Yaksi to lead the new committee, which will hope to persuade the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that wrestling deserves to keep its place in the Games.

They were chosen especially because, besides both being from countries where the sport is hugely popular, Tokyo and Istanbul are the favourites to host the 2020 Olympics, which would be only the second Games since 1896 not to feature wrestling if the campaign is unsuccessful. 

Alexander Karelin at Atlanta 1996 2Alexander Karelin, arguably the greatest wrestler in history, will lend his considerable weight to the campaign to keep the sport in the Olympics

To support the group's lobbying efforts, arguably the greatest wrestler in history, Alexander Karelin, has been appointed to represent the athletes.

He won a record three consecutive Olympic gold medals in the super heavyweight category at Seoul in 1988, Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996 and 12 successive World Championship titles.

Karelin was also been appointed to the FILA Bureau during its two-day meeting in Phuket, Thailand, along with American Jim Scherr and Brazilian Pedro Gama Filho.

Scherr, who competed at Seoul 1988, is the ex-chief executive of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), and is a former executive director of USA Wrestling.

He is currently the Commissioner of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

Jim Scherr in front of USOC logoFormer USOC chief executive Jim Shcerr has been appointed as a member of the FILA ruling Bureau

Gama Filho, meanwhile, is the President of the Brazilian Confederation of Associated Wrestling.

Lalovic has appointed American Stan Dziedzic, the Montreal 1976 welterweight bronze medallist and former team manager of the United States team as his deputy.

"We need a better public relations firm, we need to have a better relationship with the IOC, obviously," said Dziedzic.

"Those are right on top of the table.

"We have to tell the world that there is no other sport that is more of a meritocracy than wrestling.

"No bats, no balls, no gloves; it's not how fast, how far, how high - but how much better.

"Two equal size wrestlers ground on the mat to determine who the best is, with the wits and the will to win.

"Nothing could be more fundamental."

Mikhail Mamiashvili in suitMikhail Mamiashvili has claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin supports efforts to keep wrestling in the Olympics

Mikhail Mamiashvili, President of the Russian Wrestling Federation, who led the campaign to oust Martinetti, claimed that Putin was preparing to personally lobby on the sport's behalf and supported the setting up of the new committee.

"The group will coordinate and analyse the situation to prove wrestling is worthy of staying in the Olympic Movement," he said.

"The leadership of the country, and personally the President of Russia, has expressed to us their support."

Fukuda, President of Japan Wrestling Federation and vice-president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, claimed Lalovic was "qualified to lobby the IOC because of his strength in foreign languages".

Fukuda is planning to call on as much help as he can to save wrestling.

"I don't have much time to act, but I hope to find talented people in Japan and cooperate with them," he said.

Lalovic tried to assure the wrestling community that he was confident that wrestling could overcome the odds and win back its place on the programme of core sports, defeating baseball/squash, climbing karate, roller sports, squash, wakeboarding and wushu which are bidding to replace them at the 2020 Olympics.

"We are not definitely defeated yet,'' he said.

"We will exercise our sport in 2016 and make sure that we will continue to compete in 2020 and 2024.''

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