Wrestling looks to its bright future

It's been a male-dominated sport for 3000 years. But after being restored to the Olympic program, the future of wrestling is all about women.

''It has never been as appealing for girls,'' Zarina Yussof-Guy said. ''But it's mentally challenging and it feels great.''

Yussof-Guy, a 19-year-old wrestler from Perth, is one of a handful of Australian female wrestlers training to compete at an Olympic level.

''Often women don't want to wrestle because they're worried about being hurt,'' she said. ''But it's quite safe, especially compared to other martial arts.''

On Sunday, the International Olympic Committee voted to reinstate wrestling in the 2020 Tokyo Games, seven months after it was dropped from the core 25-sport Olympic program.

It triumphed over squash and a combined bid from baseball/softball. The victory is important for the ancient sport, which has been under rising pressure to adapt to the modern world by increasing gender equality and boosting female participation.

''Wrestling has always been a men's sport,'' vice-president of Wrestling Australia John Saul said. Women had competed in wrestling at the Olympics since 2004, he said, but last year's London Games highlighted the gender imbalance: only 64 of 320 competitors were female.

''That number doesn't equate to a sport that's looking towards the future,'' he said.

From the 2016 Games, two weight classes will be added for women, and one class will be cut from each of the men's freestyle and Greco-Roman categories.

For Yussof-Guy, the changes are crucial to securing a spot - possibly a medal - in 2020. ''We can now wrestle closer to what we weigh which is much less stressful,'' she said. ''It's safer too.''

The story Wrestling looks to its bright future first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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