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Wrestling, baseball-softball, squash on IOC list

Wednesday - 5/29/2013, 4:27pm  ET

By STEPHEN WILSON
AP Sports Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) - And now for the gold-medal match.

Three months after wrestling got kicked out of the 2020 Olympics, the ancient sport is back in the frame and will compete against baseball-softball and squash for a spot in the games.

"We had the opportunity to have a second chance to compete," international wrestling federation head Nenad Lalovic said Wednesday after the three sports made the IOC short list. "We took the opportunity. We won the first match but there is another one to fight."

Of eight sports competing for a place on the 2020 program, five were eliminated _ karate, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and the Chinese martial art of wushu.

The IOC executive board decided to recommend wrestling, squash and baseball-softball to the full IOC assembly for a final decision on Sept. 8 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Only one will get through.

"We are competitors. We had seven and now we have two," said Lalovic, a Serb who has revamped FILA and led the campaign for reinstatement. "Be careful, we are good fighters."

Despite a tradition dating to the Olympics of ancient Greece, wrestling was cut from the list of core sports by the IOC board in February. The decision caused an international uproar and prompted the United States, Russia, Iran and other countries to join forces in an unlikely political alliance to save the sport.

Wrestling has gone through a major upheaval since the rejection. Raphael Martinetti resigned as FILA president within days of the decision and was replaced by Lalovic, who won election as full-time leader 10 days ago.

FILA has brought women and athletes into decision-making roles and enacted rule changes to make the competition more compelling. Matches will now consist of two three-minute sessions instead of three two-minute periods, and scoring will be cumulative instead of the previous best-of-three system.

"Everybody understood what we have done," said Lalovic, wiping away sweat from his forehand after the decision was announced in a packed conference room. "They probably trust us that we can do more and this is the result.

"But we have to do much more, and to prepare ourselves for Buenos Aires with additional arguments. These will not be sufficient in Buenos Aires."

Asked whether the result showed the IOC's earlier decision was a mistake, Lalovic said: "I can't say that. Simply, I don't judge them. They are in the position to judge us."

Wednesday's announcement came after the eight sports federations each made 30-minute, closed-door presentations to the IOC board.

The board voted by secret ballot over several rounds, with a majority required for making the short list and low vote-getters eliminated. Wrestling showed its newfound strength by winning on the first round with eight of the 14 votes. It took baseball-softball and squash several votes before they secured enough votes for selection.

"The number of this vote today doesn't have any influence on the voting in the session," Lalovic said. "It doesn't mean we have any advantage in Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires, we'll have the same starting position."

Baseball-softball beat karate 9-5 in a head-to-head vote to win its spot on the list. Squash got through in the final round, getting eight votes to defeat wushu with four and sport climbing with two.

"It was never going to be an easy decision but I feel my colleagues on the board made a good decision in selecting baseball-softball, squash and wrestling to be put forward in Buenos Aires," IOC President Jacques Rogge said in a statement. "I wish the three shortlisted sports the best of luck in the run-up to the vote in September and would like to thank the other sports for their hard work and dedication."

The process has created some embarrassment for the International Olympic Committee, which was forced to row back from its previous ruling. The addition of wrestling to the mix has not gone over well with all the applicant sports and some IOC members. If wrestling wins the vote in September, that will defeat the IOC's original goal of bringing in a new sport in 2020.

Men's baseball and women's softball, which have been off the program since the 2008 Beijing Games, merged into a single federation to improve their chances of getting back in. The two were cut by the IOC in 2005, the first sports dropped since polo in 1936, and failed several times to win reinstatement as individual sports.

"We're just very happy that we made that shortlist and now I guess we're in the seventh inning and we've got to go on to the ninth," said Don Porter, the American co-president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation. "We've got a lot of young girls and boys out there who want to get their Olympic dreams back.

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