Gable: It’s time for certainties in international wrestling

Wrestling with a Legend Dan Gable

(from Volume 19, Issue 9 / May 7, 2013)

            Editor’s Note: In its battle to keep wrestling in the Olympics, the international governing body of the sport — FILA — announced that May would be World Wrestling Month. This includes a late May event in St. Petersburg, Russia, where, a six-member group, representing FILA, will be among seven international groups meeting with the IOC executive board with hopes of keeping wrestling as one of the Olympics’ core sports. Dan Gable, who won both Olympic gold as a wrestler and a coach, recently sat down with WIN Editor Mike Finn about the importance of this month and wrestling.

V11I2 BW, master (Page 8)

WIN: How critical is the month of May to the sport of international wrestling?

GABLE: I think every day is critical now. I just wish I knew what everyone was thinking. When I was an athlete, I was good enough to where I could pretty much control my thoughts and my actions. I like it when there are certainties. I don’t like question marks. As a coach, there were some uncertainties, but you also had a system where you have feedback that you are doing good things most of the time. And with that, you can read the future well.


WIN: From what I understand, FILA will have 20 minutes to make a presentation before the IOC executive board. What should they do in those 20 minutes?

GABLE: Make sure whoever is talking is completely understood and whatever is being said it getting to the listeners. I also hope both FILA and the IOC are on top of their games.


WIN: What does FILA have to overcome in dealing with the IOC?

GABLE:  We have been dealing with the Olympic problem since Feb. 12, or longer, starting with the regime of (former FILA president) Raphael Martinetti. All of a sudden our sport is in jeopardy and there is not a lot of control. It’s like when you start to wrestle and there is a lot to learn.  You feel like you are starting from scratch and you should not be. If you go out just throwing this or that, you might be wasting a lot of time.

Right now, I don’t see too many certainties whether it’s with FILA or the IOC. I don’t know who really knows what is going on, except the 15 members of the IOC executive board. And they may not know as much as they think they know.

All this information to the wrestling world, this is about competition, pride, money and power between two groups: FILA and the IOC. I don’t think the communication in the world of international sport is good. There is more turmoil in this than the normal sporting area.


WIN: What are some of these communication problems?

GABLE: Normally when two parties go to a meeting, they comprehend each other as well as one can, even though something might mean something different to each party. And that can happen with one language being spoken.

Now we have 24 people in FILA, 115 people at the IOC and I don’t know how many different languages are used. I know the other day, Stan Dziedzic had (interim FILA president) Nenad Lalovic get on the phone with about seven of us (on a conference call) to basically say hi. But once he got off the phone, I’m not really sure what he said. He is a Serbian speaking English, but it was not the English I understand.

I’m not sure how much you can accomplish when there are 24 different languages being spoken. It’s not that simple.


WIN:  One would hope that the IOC and FILA are on the same page. Is that possible from what you know?

GABLE:  Here is something I believe is true. There was an 11-10 vote to get rid of Martinetti in February. That vote told me that some people on FILA’s board didn’t understand the issue. That vote should have been 21-0, which I believe would have looked a lot better to the IOC.

I also know this: the IOC has office space for the core sports of the Olympics but FILA chose not to use that office space and buy their own, which overshadows the IOC. What I’m wondering is why does FILA remain where it is. Where is the for sale sign in front of the FILA location? FILA should show it wants to move in with the IOC.

I also know the IOC wants sports to go out and find different sponsors, which FILA has not done well. They need to go out and find more groups to make commitments towards the sport for at least seven years and $50 million. I could help FILA find sponsors. I’m sure John Deere does not want wrestling to go away.

The problem is that I’m not sure exactly what needs to be done and what is happening. I’m not even sure what is reality with it comes to FILA and the IOC.


WIN: The IOC announced to drop wrestling from the Olympics in February and now FILA meets with the IOC board in late May. Was three months enough time for FILA to show the IOC that it has reorganized?

GABLE: It’s not enough time to see if FILA really is making a change and seven months may not be enough time (when FILA could meet in September with the entire IOC that will vote on the board’s recommendation). If the IOC does the right thing, they will keep wrestling going for at least the next four months. If the IOC really is looking at what is going on and really care about people in the world, they will give wrestling the chance for reform and get back in line for what needs to be done because we deserve it. I don’t care how negative 24 people on the FILA board were under Martinetti. There are more than 24 people in the world who care about this sport.


WIN: Why does wrestling deserve this second chance?

GABLE: Wrestling is already built. Our organization has a structure and you don’t let millions of people lose their livelihoods and goals and futures just because of what 24 people did or did not do.

The right thing to do is for FILA to straighten up, get some new leadership and move ahead stronger than ever. They may have done this, but we don’t see the results yet.  Right now, there is a lot of chaos and I’m not sure everything is fitting together.


WIN: On May 15 and 19, the U.S. freestyle team is hosting Russia and Iran in two different Beat the Streets events in New York and Los Angeles. What should those events say to the IOC executive board?

GABLE: That’s what this should be all about: diplomacy. Let’s work on people’s minds and attitudes. This is the way we want the world to be; to feel that we can have friendly competition and remain friends. No matter how crazy it sounds, these events can help make the world healthier. The Beat the Streets events in New York and Los Angeles are very valuable to the sport of wrestling and for the world.

That’s why I think the United States should have gone to Moscow in 1980 (for the Olympics when Gable was a coach). The IOC should not pick on wrestling when wrestling is the one sport that is creating positive moments between countries.


WIN: Regarding rule changes, what should be the biggest?

GABLE: Throw out the (overtime) clinch. The IOC may think that makes wrestling a game of chance. You should not have a game of chance in any sport.  Also clean up the edge of the mat.  Don’t give a point to someone who tiptoed for points. Get the right call, which should be a wrestling call; not one for who is the best acrobat. n


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