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IOC President Rogge to meet with wrestling leader

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In this April 21, 2012 file photo, Rulon Gardner speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team Trials in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File) In this April 21, 2012 file photo, Rulon Gardner speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team Trials in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — IOC President Jacques Rogge will meet with the head of wrestling's governing body to discuss ways the sport can fight to save its place in the 2020 Olympics.

The IOC executive board removed wrestling from the program of the 2020 Games on Tuesday, cutting it from the list of 26 sports at last year's London Olympics.

The decision, which still must be ratified by the full IOC in September, has been widely criticized by wrestling organizations around the world.

Rogge said Wednesday he's been contacted by Raphael Martinetti, the president of international wrestling federation FILA, and was encouraged by the sport's determination to remain in the games.

"We agreed we would meet at the first opportunity to have discussions," Rogge said at a news conference at the close of a two-day board meeting. "I should say FILA reacted well to this disheartening news for them.

"They vowed to adapt the sport and vowed to fight to be eventually included in the 2020 slot."

Wrestling, which remains on the program for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, still has a chance to stay on the list for 2020 — if it manages to convince the IOC to reverse the board's decision.

Wrestling now joins seven other sports in applying for one opening on the 2020 program: a combined bid from baseball and softball, karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and the martial art of wushu.

The IOC executive board will meet in May in St. Petersburg, Russia, to decide which sport or sports to propose for 2020 inclusion. The final vote will be made at the IOC general assembly in September in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

IOC officials said it's possible the board could decide to put forward three sports for consideration, including wrestling.

"The vote of yesterday is not an elimination of wrestling from the Olympic Games," Rogge said. "Wrestling will participate in the games in Rio de Janeiro. To the athletes who train now, I say, 'Continue training for your participation in Rio. Your federation is working for the inclusion in the 2020 Games.'"

Rogge was asked whether Tuesday's decision marked an end to wrestling in the Olympics.

"I cannot look into a crystal ball into the future," he said. "We have established a fair process by which the sport that would not be included in the core has a chance to compete with the seven other sports for the slot on the 2020 Games."

Rogge said he was fully aware of the backlash to the decision against wrestling, a sport which dates back to the ancient Olympics and featured in the inaugural modern games in 1896.

The head of the Russian Olympic Committee said Wednesday he would write to Rogge to appeal the IOC board's decision. Wrestling has been one of Russia's strongest sports: Soviet and Russian wrestlers have won 77 gold medals.

"We knew even before the decision was taken whatever sport would not be included in the core program would lead to criticism from the supporters of that sport," Rogge said.

The board voted after reviewing a report by the IOC program commission that analyzed 39 criteria, including TV ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy and global participation and popularity. With no official rankings or recommendations contained in the report, the final decision by the 15-member board may have included political and sentimental factors.

Modern pentathlon — a five-sport discipline dating back to the 1912 Games — had been widely expected to face removal from the program but lobbied successfully to save its status.

Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., the son of the former IOC president, is a vice president of the International Modern Pentathlon Union and a member of the IOC board.

FILA said Tuesday it was "greatly astonished" by the decision, adding that the federation "will take all necessary measures to convince the IOC executive board and IOC members of the aberration of such decision against one of the founding sports of the ancient and modern Olympic Games."

The last sports removed from the Olympics were baseball and softball, voted out by the IOC in 2005 and off the program since the 2008 Beijing Games. Golf and rugby will be joining the program at the 2016 Games in Rio.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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