By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In 2013 wrestling was momentarily dropped from the future Olympic agenda. After modernizing, revising its rules and making it more inclusive for women the sport was reinstated and this weekend (January 30th-31st) the Aquece Rio freestyle women’s wrestling test event took place in Barra da Tijuca.
Formerly there were only two weight classes for women wrestlers – 55kg and 72kg. However, at the 2016 Olympic Games in August, there will be six classes for men and women in freestyle wrestling and six for men in Greco-Roman wrestling.
“We have six weight classes for men and six for women,” Gray told Rio 2016. “Having that kind of equality in wrestling, which is not traditionally a female sport, is amazing. It really shows how far women have come in this sport and in the world. Young girls can look up to people like Aline Silva and myself and see powerful women who can also be pretty and step on that mat and be strong.”
The test event, which included fifty wrestlers from eight countries, was held in the Carioca Arena 1 and was contested in four weight classes – 53kg, 58kg, 69kg and 75kg.
The 75kg weight was fiercely fought between Brazilian star Aline Silva and American Adeline Gray, a three-time world champion. Gray won the fight and took gold, fueling her hopes of becoming the first female Olympic gold medallist from the United States. Her rival, Silva went on to take bronze.
The Chinese were well represented, with Sun Yannan picking up gold in the 48kg category and Feng Zhou winning in the 69kg category but the country lost out on a third gold to Japan’s Yui Sakano in the 58kg category.
After nearly being dropped for lack of fan-based and revenue, a vote in September 2013 guaranteed that freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling would be contested at least through the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo and the 2024 Olympics, which had yet to be awarded.
The venue and scoring systems were tested during the event and were approved by the sport’s governing body, the United World Wrestling. Athletes expressed some worry over the Zika virus outbreak. Many took extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites, such as covering up, regularly applying repellent and staying indoors.