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February 18, 2013

Imagine Gable’s gold never happened

Olympic wrestling body-slammed, looking for a reversal


OTTUMWA — Flame of the Olympic world stage extinguished?

Future stories like Gable will never have the opportunity on the world stage after the IOC’s decision, if it’s not reversed. Olympic champions like Iowa’s Ed and Lou Banach and Randy Lewis in 1984, Oklahoma State’s John Smith in 1988 and 1992, Iowa State’s Kevin Jackson in 1992, Iowa’s Tom Brands in 1996, Iowa State’s Cael Sanderson in 2004 and his pupil Jake Varner in 2012  would never have had the opportunity in the world spotlight to galvanize new generations. An opportunity is destroyed not just in wrestling, but in everything wrestling teaches — work ethic, toughness, courage, goals, dedication, focus, humility and resilience. Imagine if their Olympic golds and stories that motivated generations of hopeful wrestlers and lifted the spirits of mainstream America never happened. Their message would never have been heard; their examples would never have been seen.

Imagine lost opportunities in other Olympic sports

Expand this “imagine” exercise to other Olympic sports that never garner the world stage attention but once every four years. Imagine if Mark Spitz, Michael Phelps, Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10s, Shawn Johnson and Gabby Douglas’ uplifting stories had never existed. Or the Kenyan or Ethiopian long-distance runners who ran barefoot out of poverty to Olympic glory. It would be a crime to humanity to ban these empowering stories from the Olympic world stage ... in sports no more popular than wrestling in non-Olympic years.

Isn’t that what the Olympics is all about? Every four years, the mainstream public is introduced to athletes in sports they may not be familiar with — athletes who have trained and sacrificed their entire lives for one opportunity in front of the world — to make their footprint to define their existence.

When you take that opportunity away, you take away part of humanity’s spirit to achieve something special.

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