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

Kurdish Party Pushes Political Gamble to Run in Turkey Poll

HDP announces it will run as political party instead of fielding independent candidates in June election, but faces tough 10 percent threshold More

Twitter Targets Islamic State

New research shows suspending Twitter accounts of Islamic State, its supporters has been effective; group, its backers are facing 'significant pressure,' says terrorism expert More

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

Majur Juac made the leap from being a refugee in Africa to a master chess champion in US, where he shares his expertise with students 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.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid