Making it more attractive

Nenad Lalovic has been elected as the new president of FILA.-AP

At its recent Congress in Moscow, the International Wrestling Federation (FILA) showed its intent to change with time and rise to the challenge and stop itself from being sidelined from the Olympic programme, writes Y. B. Sarangi.

Wrestling, fighting for survival in the Olympics, promises to be more entertaining following some drastic and immediate rule changes.

At its recent Congress in Moscow, the International Wrestling Federation (FILA) showed its intent to change with time and rise to the challenge and stop itself from being sidelined from the Olympic programme. The FILA Congress, which elected its acting President Nenad Lalovic as its chief, approved a set of rules which stressed on attacks and minimised the scope for time-wasting tactics.

The major changes are 1. Cumulative score for the entire bout instead of three independent periods. 2. The structure of the match is for two three-minute periods (earlier, three two-minute periods). 3. A takedown is worth two points (earlier, one point), making it more valuable than a point for the push-out or a penalty point. 4. There is a difference in what a technical fall will be. In freestyle, it will be a difference of 10 points, while in Greco-Roman it will be a difference of seven points (earlier, six points for all styles). 5. There will be separation of returning athletes from the previous World Championships (so that top athletes meet in later rounds).

The FILA also left little room for passivity while doing away with the debatable draw in case of no point scored. “In freestyle, the first passivity call will be awarded with a verbal warning. In the second instance of a passivity call, a 30-second clock will begin. If no athlete scores in those 30 seconds, a caution and a point will be awarded to the opponent of the passive athlete,” FILA said in a press release.

“In addition, if no athlete scores in the first two minutes of a period, referees must select one of the wrestlers as passive. In this situation, the passive wrestler must score within 30 seconds or the opponent receives a point.

“In Greco Roman, the first violation is a warning. The second results in a caution, with the opponent able to choose either par terre (bending on knees) or a standing position. The third violation results in a point to the opponent. On the fourth passivity, the bout is terminated and the active wrestler is awarded a victory by fall.”

Ashok Kumar, a coach with the Air Force and an international referee, feels the changes will favour the Indian wrestlers. “Our wrestlers come from 'akharas' where they are used to fighting long bouts and have good stamina. Longer periods will be good for us.

“Overall, there is stress on attacks and use of techniques. However, in a bout involving two wrestlers of equal level, it will be slightly tough for the referees to choose the more passive wrestler.”

London Olympics bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt agrees with Ashok. “Since our endurance level is better, the new format will be beneficial for us. However, Indians cannot afford to be slow starters anymore. If you fight more, you have a better chance (of winning). But one has to adjust to the changes.”

Eminent coach Yashvir Singh, the FILA coach of the year in 2010, had a slightly different take though. “The changes are not very good for our wrestlers. We start slowly, while the Europeans are exactly opposite. Had it been three periods of three minutes each like in the 1980s, it would have helped our athletes. They would have banked on their good endurance level to bounce back.

“Now, we have to work on both speed and stamina. Earlier, there used to be 30 to 45 seconds of wrestling in a two-minute period. Now it is difficult to erase a deficit of three or four points, so one cannot afford a slow start. One has to be tactically better.”

The FILA has also decided to include more women’s competitions in major events like the Olympics. Irrespective of the International Olympic Committee’s decision on wrestling's fate (for its stay in the 2020 Olympics), the changes will definitely help the sport raise its profile and make it more attractive for the common spectators.