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Smaller Olympic Sports Seek Greater Recognition

For many Olympic sports, attention comes just once every four years. VOA's Jim Stevenson has more on the push by some athletes to raise the profile of their sports in the time between Olympic Games.

Women's water polo, fencing and wrestling are, as a rule, not widely followed sports outside of the Olympics. But several U.S. athletes are hoping to grow interest in those sports following their success at the Beijing Games.

Brenda Villa plays water polo and helped the U.S. women earn a silver medal on Friday. She says her sport has been very regional, but is moving toward wider participation.

"With all the exposure that women's water polo got in these Olympic games, I think our sport will grow. And especially grow outside of California to become a national sport. I think there is still a lot to be done to offer things outside of college for women," said Villa. "But I think we are taking the right step in the right direction with these games."

Fencer Erin Smart was a part of the U.S. foil team. She says positive reaction to winning the silver medal will hopefully lead people to follow fencing at other major tournaments.

"I already have received many emails, and a lot of people contacting me just to know more about the sport. I definitely see it growing outside of the Olympic games because we have many competitions, world cups and world championships that are not on the same level as the Olympics," said Smart. "But definitely we bring the same passion and competitiveness."

The gold medal men's 55-kilogram weight class of men's freestyle wrestling went to American Henry Cejudo. He is hoping that wrestling can now make its way to more television viewers.

"I think if they would just market sports like fencing and wresting, and put them on cable television instead of the same sports you see all the time," he said.

Also seeking to promote his sport is American Michael Phelps. By winning a record eight gold medals at a single Olympics, he may have the best chance to cultivate a wider interest in swimming. And the other athletes will again be watching Phelps, this time to get ideas for boosting their events.