The IOC’s controversial decision to drop a sport that has been around virtually as long as the Olympic games themselves, is being met with angst and vitriol from wrestlers both past and present. Wrestlers currently wrestling at all levels are in open protest in an attempt to get their sport restored as an Olympic event. But one past wrestler has taken matters to a new level and has actually sent back his Olympic gold, saying if the IOC doesn’t want his sport, he doesn’t want their medal.
Valentin Yordanov, a Bulgarian wrestler who won the gold at the 1996 Atlanta Games, sent his medal back to the IOC and is leading protests to restore wrestling as an event.
“With this act I express my solidarity with the millions of athletes and fans of our sport who are condemning the recommendation of the IOC,” Yordanov said, according to Reuters. “Our sport is an integral part of the Olympic movement and one of the foundations of both the ancient and modern Olympics.”
Yordanov had perhaps the best line yet to describe the insanity of eliminating wrestling as an Olympic event. Speaking at his emotional press conference, Yordanov said that IOC president Jacque Rogges is the only man in the world who was able to unite Russia, Iran and the United States behind a single cause — bringing back wrestling to the Olympics.
The IOC likely isn’t going to care that Yordanov handed his medal back, and it’s truly a shame that he didn’t make a bigger scene in handing back the gold that he earned. But it speaks volumes that a man who’s main accomplishment in life was winning an Olympic gold medal feels strongly enough about an IOC ruling that he’s willing to hand his legacy back in protest.