London 2012: British Wrestling in grapple for Olympic places

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter
Leon Rattigan
British Wrestling are set for crucial talks with the British Olympic Association after failing to meet their minimum qualification targets for London 2012

British Wrestling will learn on Tuesday whether the British Olympic Association will allow them to take their full allocation of wrestlers to London 2012.

The sport was awarded three host-nation placesexternal-link by the BOA last year, but has failed to meet the agreed 'minimum selection criteria'.

"It's extremely important," British Wrestling CEO Colin Nicholson told BBC Sport.

"We would like athletes competing in all wrestling disciplines in London."

British performances on the mat have not matched the BOA approved targets of a top-sixteen finish at the 2011 World Championships, a top-eight place at this year's Europeans or a top-six position at an Olympic qualification tournament.

As such there is the possibility British Wrestling could have their host-nation places withdrawn.

Speaking after the announcement that he would run in the Olympic torch relayexternal-link British Wrestling performance director Shaun Morley said he believed they could deliver credible performances in London.

"I don't think we are going to win any medals, my realistic expectation is that we can get somebody into the top six at the Olympics," he said.

"If we achieve that to me it will represent significant progression for a sport that only a minority of people in this country are involved in."

The sport's governing body has been hit by a series of negative stories in the past 18 month after several former athletes voiced their concerns over the recruitment of foreign-born wrestlers, initially as sparring partners, who were said to be then 'taking the places' of home-grown athletes.

England's Commonwealth Champion Miroslav Dykun also tested positive for a banned substance at the beginning of May and a few weeks on, following rumours that Ukraine-born former European Champion Olga Butkevych was set to be nominated for Olympic consideration, the BOA arranged emergency 'clarification talks' with British Wrestling.

Whilst neither organisation would confirm whether the rumours about athlete selection were true, Nicholson says that the meeting was 'overall positive' and the BOA added that they were 'satisfied' by the responses they received.

Furthermore -96kg British champion Leon Rattiganexternal-link has achieved a few international victories of late and Nicholson hopes they can demonstrate to the Olympic Qualification Standards (OQS) panel that they possess athletes with potential.

GB wrestlers in action at the 2010 GB Cup

"[London 2012] is a significant opportunity for the sport, it offers a chance to raise public awareness of wrestling and provide a platform for Rio 2016," said Nicholson.

The four-strong Olympic Qualification Standards (OQS) panel consists of Team GB leaders Andy Hunt and Sir Clive Woodward as well as Mark England and Sarah Winckless.

To date, the rhythmic gymnasts are the only British team to have missed out on selection for the London Olympics, however they received a late reprieve and although Nicholson says he would respect any judgement made by the BOA he is hopeful of a positive outcome for the sport.

Should British Wrestling be allowed to take up their three host-nation places then they would be required to officially name their athletesexternal-link by 1 June.

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