Taking a break during taping in Sylmar, Calif., on his latest endeavor — as host of GSN’s reboot of the former NBC game show “Minute to Win It” — gold-medal-winning Olympic short-track speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno reflects on the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to drop Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling from the Games, starting in 2020.
“It’s weird,” Ohno tells Zap2it. “They still have a chance to be back in it. I guess the rule is, every four years, they have to take out a sport. I still don’t understand why they decided to choose that sport out of all the sports out there.”
Many people were equally confused when the announcement came out earlier this year, since — as indicated by the name “Greco-Roman” — wrestling has not only been part of the modern Olympic Games but also of the ancient Olympics that inspired them.
Ohno objects to the move, and asked if he’s expressed that to the IOC, Ohno says, “Oh, we already had that discussion. They know.”
(At left, U.S. gold medalist Jordan Ernest Burroughs, at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.)
As to the influence that former Olympians have on the IOC, Ohno says, “None. Zero. Those decisions are made by a panel, and they know. They’ve heard from many people. There have been petitions. There has been Twitter, people saying, ‘Hey, why are you doing this?'”
Even though his Olympic sport was a world apart from wrestling, Ohno has great respect for grapplers.
“You know how hard these guys train,” he says. “They’re different athletes. Any fighting sport is one that requires an immense amount of dedication. Making weight is the first fight. I used to room with wrestlers my entire career. They’re awesome — animals.”
Ohno remains optimistic about wrestling’s Olympic future, saying, “I think it’ll get put back in.”
If not, he may opt to wear a wrestling singlet on “Minute to Win It,” which premieres on Tuesday, June 25.
“I just go out there in a singlet,” he quips, “and we just see what happens. It gets to high levels — very hot on stage.”