News / Europe

Russia's Olympic Wrestling at Crossroads as IOC Decision Nears

Olympic Russian Wrestling at Crossroads as IOC Decision Nearsi
X
July 15, 2013 6:06 PM
The crowded wrestling schools in the city of Khasavyurt, Dagestan have a tradition rich in Olympic champions. But the center of Russia’s wrestling world also sits at the crossroads of a North Caucasus Islamic insurgency that is eager to attract young, athletic recruits. In September, the International Olympic Committee will vote on the future of wrestling as an Olympic sport. Austin Malloy visits the city’s top wrestling schools to see how the vote will impact thousands of young men with dreams of Olympic glory.
Austin Malloy
— The crowded wrestling schools in the city of Khasavyurt in the Russian republic of Dagestan have a tradition that's rich in Olympic champions. At the Irbaikhanov Olympic preparatory school in Khasavyurt, young grapplers are determined to chase Olympic glory. Their Olympic dreams, however, increasingly face impossible odds.

This September in Argentina, the International Olympic Committee will vote to see if wrestling will make its 2020 roster of sports. Olympic hopefuls are not the only fighters, though, in this troubled region. Russian special forces raids against Islamist militants are a daily threat in Khasavyurt. These militants actively recruit able-bodied athletes to join the insurgency in the North Caucasus.     

But Asrudin Bataev, the head trainer at the Irbaikhanov school, said the dream of becoming an Olympic champion keeps his students in the gym and out of reach of the extremists.

"In our school alone we have over 2,000 people," he said. "But in general across the city we have so many schools that specialize in wrestling, and how many kids we've in some way saved from extremism or terrorism, so they basically don't mess with that."
 
Starting at the age of 15, wrestlers begin training two to three times a day at the Irbaikhanov school. This strict training regimen, backed primarily by funding from the Kremlin, has produced a rich tradition of Olympic champions. Wrestlers from Khasavyurt, a city of roughly 133,000, have won eight gold medals in the past four Summer Olympic Games. The yearly budget at the Irbaikhanov school - about $580,000 - helped fund six winners of those eight gold medals.    

But European Champion and graduate of the Irbaikhanov school Zaur Bataev worries about the financial impact and potential backlash if wrestling is cut from the Olympics.

"If wrestling is removed from the Olympics, then that will stop funding for some places, and in some places that will close schools," he said. "If we rip away all the wrestling gyms, if we close all the gyms and say that your sport is no longer in the Olympics, that will increase crime, that will increase banditry, that will increase all negative things of that nature."

North Caucasus Islamic Research Center director Ruslan Gereev does not think that crime and violence will increase in Dagestan.

"Every athlete that goes and joins the armed underground with the rebels is a loss for the state," said Gereev. "But if we compare the situation in Khasavyurt now to what is was like a year or two ago, back then there was really a lot of terrorist attacks and rebel fighters.”

Long-term stability in Russia’s North Caucasus, however, can be difficult to predict.

For now, wrestling classes in Khasavyurt continue to busy thousands of young men with high energy and dreams of Olympic glory. But the future of wrestling in Khasavyurt and Russia’s North Caucasus may rest on the future of wrestling as an Olympic sport.

You May Like

China Announces Corruption Probe into Senior Ex-Leader

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, being probed for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid