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Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev meets with Lalovic, wrestling leaders in Sofia

FILA President Nenad Lalovic (left) meets with Bulgaria President Rosen Plevneliev (right) on Wednesday. Photo by T.R. Foley.

SOFIA, Bulgaria - Rosen Plevneliev, the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, took a brief break from the country’s business Wednesday afternoon in the capital city to talk a bit about the Olympic sport of wrestling.

The President invited three leaders of the sport to his office in Sofia and offered his help and passion for supporting wrestling’s fight to stay in the Olympic Games. Bulgaria has been very successful in wrestling, crowning several World and Olympic champions.

Plevneliev spoke with Nenad Lalovic, the President of FILA, the international federation of wrestling; Tzeno Tzenov, President of the European Wrestling Association; and Bulgarian hero Valentin Yordanov, a seven- time world champion and head of the Bulgarian Wrestling Federation. Yordanov won a gold medal in the 1996 Games in Atlanta and compiled 10 world championships medals during his career in Bulgaria and he ranks as one of the top wrestlers in history.

The backdrop for the invitation by the country’s leader is the Junior World Championships currently being held in Sofia, where 62 countries and more than 500 of the top young wrestlers in the world are competing at the Armeetz Arena.

“He supports our battle and our fight as we try to become a member of the Olympic Family,” said Lalovic of the visit with the Bulgarian Chief of State. “The Bulgarian Republic is ready to do anything we ask of them as we try to restore our sport in the Olympics. The President is very concerned because wrestling is the most medaled sport in Bulgaria. Traditional wrestling in Bulgaria is 2,000 years old and they have to respect that tradition. They have to respect that because whoever doesn’t know his history, can’t see his future. And we want to insure a future that includes wrestling in the Olympic Games.”

The sport of wrestling is one of three sports competing for one spot as an additional sport on the Olympic program for 2020 and 2024. The others who were short-listed after the IOC Executive Board meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, May 18, were Baseball-Softball and Squash. The vote of the full IOC Session will be Sept. 8, 2013, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Wrestling first learned of its surprise elimination from the Olympic program in a recommendation by the IOC’s Executive Board on Feb., 12, 2013. Since that time the sport has battled back with massive rule changes, more leadership roles for women and athletes and a complete look in the mirror as an international federation with 177 National Federations and 30 million wrestlers world wide. Less than amonth after the IOC decision, FILA changed presidentselecting Lalovic, who is Serbian, to lead the organization.

“I explained to the President what we have done, what we all have done in the wrestling family, and what we expect, “ Lalovic said. “I told him that we are optimistic and we have confidence about the elections in Buenos Aires and that it will still be a challenge. But, it will be just another step as we continue to improve our sport. We have to re-establish ourselves as a core sport in the Olympic Games one day.

“I also told him that this world championship now taking place in Sofia is very important to us because it sends the message and image of the new sport of wrestling for the future. This new wrestling is basically the argument for the sport as it faces the vote of the IOC. “

The president was one of the first leaders of the world to write his support for the sport to Dr. Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC. He offered again to communicate his support to the IOC for wrestling.

“We will do everything we can to keep wrestling in the Olympics because it is so important to the people,” President Plevneliev said. “This sport is very important to Bulgarians.”

“I promise you We will fight like lions in Buenos Aires, “ Lalovic promised the Bulgarian leader as the four men ended the meeting with a good laugh on a sunny, warm afternoon in the nation’s capital.

They were all standing beside the Bulgarian Coat of Arms with two golden lions holding up the nation’s crest.

“Maybe we will bring them to Buenos Aires,” Lalovic said. “They are taking a stand for wrestling.”

NenadLalovic, president of FILA, shakes hands with Bulgarian president Rosen Plevneliev on Wednesday afternoon as wrestling leaders met with the president in Sofia to discuss the sport's ongoing fight to stay in the Olympic Games. Lalovic was in town to attend the 2013 Junior World Wrestling Championships being held at the Armeetz Arena in Sofia.
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