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Women’s Senegalese Wrestling and the Real Victims of the IOC

12 April 2013 One Comment

Women’s Senegalese Wrestling and the Real Victims of the IOC

T.R. Foley

For centuries female wrestlers in Senegal have competed in seasonal wrestling matches as a way to help create good fortune for the annual rice crop. However, with the expansion of Olympic opportunities for women in wrestling the nation’s most-talented female wrestlers have become accustomed to using the sport as a vessel for recognition on the international stage and fighting for equal rights at home. It’s an opportunity that gives Senegalese women hope for a brighter future.

Senegalese women aren’t alone. Since 2001 sporting commissions from around the world have started directing their poor Olympic funding into women’s wrestling programs. The selfish hope of these federations was that they could bring home more Olympic medals, and many did. From Mongolia to Colombia, women around the world emerged from their ger’s and ghettos to become national icons and heroes. In less than a decade wrestling has become the most powerful and accessible opportunity  for women to advance the ideals of equal rights and mutual respect through sport.

It’s an antiquated idea, but men in many of the world’s second and third world countries value strength and courage above all else, and the best way for those without social standing to show those physical and emotional ideals is through wrestling. Granting women that access has done more to make them an equitable sex than the work a 1000 NGO’s, or a million PSA’s. It’s simple: When women win on the mat, they improve the lives of women in their home country.

When the IOC executive board decided in February to recommend the elimination of wrestling from the Olympic Games after 2016, they weren’t just impacting a few former collegiate wrestlers here in America, they jeopardized  the ability of women around the world to pursue equal rights in their home countries. They muted the voice of these women, eliminating what little bit of personal and cultural expression they could achieve on the world stage and replacing it with the idea of larger profits and tidier administration.

Though articles about the geopolitical ramifications of improved sporting relations with Iran and Russia are meaningful, nothing matters more than protecting the right of women and ethnic minorities to advance through sport. It’s the Olympic ideal, and as we see in Senegal, it’s on the verge of collapse. The IOC’s decision made victims of the least capable to defend themselves, or lobby for reinstatement. They picked on the have-not’s.

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One Comment »

  • Matt said:

    “. . . nothing matters more than protecting the right of women and ethnic minorities to advance through sport.”
    That is a completely sexist and racist thing to say. It is also an opinion and not true.

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