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#636768 - 13th Dec 2011 11:11am Team GB have a bunch of foreign wrestlers
Teardrop Offline
Wise One

Registered: 17th Jan 2011
Posts: 801
Loc: Wales
There was a 'Meet the Team' media opportunity scheduled with Great Britain's wrestlers last Friday. They didn't turn up.

The squad has been in a mood, apparently, since this newspaper pointed out its fraudulent composition. There are seven members of the elite squad and five are 'plastics', brought in from stronger nations in eastern Europe and now awaiting citizenship with the Olympics approaching.

Those involved with Great Britain's world-class performance programme - emphasis on the world, rather than Britain - do not like being reminded of its bogus nature.

Leaving aside that, for beefy old wrestlers, they do seem a right bunch of Mary-Anns, the no-show was probably just as well. Had British wrestling's elite turned up, with their pronounced accents and unfamiliar names - is that the usual spelling of Madyarchyk, sir? - the great lie at the heart of the strategy would have been laid bare.

There is no legacy, no genuine improvement for British wrestling here, just rampant opportunism and a podium grab for glory's sake. The stars of Team GB's wrestling division are Yana Stadnik and Olga Butkevych (beautiful British names, as Al Murray's Pub Landlord might say), both Ukrainian and the sole female representatives on the team.
No way through: British-born Chloe Spiteri (blue) has been marginalised since the 2012 test event

No way through: British-born Chloe Spiteri (blue) has been marginalised since the 2012 test event

This is not the same as the status of cricket captain Andrew Strauss, born in South Africa but raised in Britain and a product of the British system, or Laura Bechtolsheimer, a British dressage rider whose parents emigrated from Germany when she was one year old.

The wrestlers have been recently welcomed, fully formed, with specific purpose and at a price.

Chloe Spiteri, born in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium, was part of the British squad at the Olympic wrestling test event at the ExCel Centre at the weekend, but is now marginalised. Her hopes of a return visit next summer are very slim.

'I think it is a bit unfair that we have been pushed to the side,' said Spiteri. 'They can't expect the GB athletes to go out there and perform without being developed. I am the only Londoner at the test event. I should be getting a big profile and the priority to be pushed. Instead, I feel neglected.'

The fear on the part of British wrestling is that the 3.5million of funding from UK Sport will have gone to waste if Theresa May, the Home Secretary, refuses to fast-track citizenship applications for the new arrivals; as she may do if spooked by the bad publicity surrounding the sport.

Hence the nervousness about a report detailing the surprising number of marriages involving the imported athletes, the highest profile of which involves Stadnik and Leon Rattigan, also a member of the elite squad and that rare thing, British-born.

If anybody is implying it has all been set up, that is ridiculous, just laughable,' said a spokesman. 'These claims threaten Yana's chances because Theresa May will look at it and think: "What a bloody mess". All the negative publicity could possibly stop Yana competing at the Olympics

Yet nobody is talking about the insult of arranged marriage. Is it not enough that citizenship must be fast-tracked, with its shades of the Zola Budd debacle?

'If we can get passports for Yana and Olga then this is our big chance,' adds Malcolm Morley, chairman of British Wrestling (his son Shaun is performance director, which is nice).

'They are the only two with a realistic opportunity to win a medal. People won't like me saying that but I deal with reality. I am a great believer in competing at the Olympics but you have to be good enough. If you are not, you don't deserve to be there.


Myroslav Dykun (weight class 66kg)
Age: 33. Born: Ukraine.

Krasimir Krastanov (55kg)
Age: 29. Born: Bulgaria.

Oleksandr Madyarchyk (60kg)
Age: 27. Born: Ukraine.

Leon Rattigan (96kg)
Age: 24. Born: Bristol.

Philip Roberts (66kg)
Age: 22. Born: Bolton.


Yana Stadnik** (48kg)
Age: 24. Born: Ukraine.

Olga Butkevych** (59kg)
Age: 25. Born: Ukraine.

(** waiting on passport applications)

'We don't want to be like Eddie the Eagle. He was a bloody embarrassment to everybody. I don't believe such people should be allowed on the Olympic stage.'

Yet there are British wrestlers who were good enough, but are now cut loose. In common with ski jumper Eddie Edwards they were a long way from the medals, but they were the best of what Britain had to offer. Suddenly that was not sufficient.

A wrestler like Michael Grundy, at one time 12th in the world, found he had to beat the best of Ukraine and Bulgaria, too. Grundy was dropped from the elite performance programme this year, although Myroslav Dykun is still hoping to compete at his weight (66-74kg).

Edwards, whose heroism is greater than Morley's paltry imagination can conceive, did not have to match Norwegians and Austrians to compete in Calgary in 1988; he simply had to be the best ski-jumper on an island that doesn't even have a suitable slope. And he was.

He will be remembered far longer than any Plastic Brit who claims a medal in London wrapped in a flag of convenience.

The Games are not all about the podium and never have been. The forlorn figures seen at the back of the field in the 10,000 metres may not be the fastest, but they are the finest their country can produce; and that attitude embodies the Olympic spirit more than Team GB's naked ambition for success by any means necessary.

That is the real embarrassment. It is British wrestling's administrators, not its athletes, who should be scared to show their faces.

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#646452 - 4th Jan 2012 5:07pm Re: Team GB have a bunch of foreign wrestlers [Re: Teardrop]
BlueLou Offline

Registered: 28th Mar 2009
Posts: 66
Loc: Wirral (duh!)
Let's enter Wade Barret, sorted.

In all seriousness, the Olympics' eligibility rules are too lax.

Dare I say it, they should take a leaf out of FIFA's books.


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