GB's Leon Rattigan supports foreign wrestlers' Olympic bid

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter
Leon Rattigan and Yana Stadnik win 2010 GB Cup medals in Sheffield

Commonwealth bronze medallist Leon Rattigan says he has no concerns with foreign-born wrestlers competing for Great Britain at the Olympic Games.

Rattigan, 24, is in a relationship with Ukrainian wrestler Yana Stadnikexternal-link.

Although recruited as a sparring partner, Stadnik hopes to attain a British passportexternal-link before the Games.

"If they're improving the sport and getting results which increase funding for the country, I don't have anything against that personally," he said.

Although 2010 European silver medallist Stadnik and current European bronze medallist Olga Butkevych are allowed to compete for Great Britain in certain events without a British passport, this does not extend to competitions which act as qualification events for an Olympics, or the Games themselves.

Earlier this year, several wrestlers expressed concern with British Wrestling's programme, which they alleged was seeing a role reversal, with domestic athletes becoming training partners for the foreign-born wrestlers.

Stadnik and Butkevych both qualify for British passports next year, but British Wrestling fear that unless home secretary Theresa May fast-tracks their applicationsexternal-link, they may not receive their paperwork by June 2012, which is the deadline for Team GB squad submissions.

Rattigan feels that the presence of Ukranian-born wrestlers has only had a positive effect on the British Wrestling setup.

"All of the training partners bring experience, technique and different coaching styles that they've received in their countries, so they help us with that as well as making us mentally stronger," said Rattigan.

Like Stadnik and Butkevych, the Bristol-born wrestler is scheduled to compete at the Olympic test eventexternal-link at London's ExCel Centre this weekend, although a bicep injury has put his participation in doubt.

He will be at the venue no matter what but would like the chance to move on from the disappointment of a first-round eliminationexternal-link at the World Championships in September.

"Sometimes you have your day and sometimes you don't, and this is the sport of wrestling," reflected Rattigan.

"You can have ideal preparation and I was in a training camp in Bulgaria but things didn't go for me, but I have to put that behind me and concentrate on the next tournament, which is the test event - I'm really looking forward to it and it will be good to get a feel for the venue."

The test event is closed to the public, and Rattiganexternal-link added: "It's a shame there's no fans, but that'll make it a little less pressured, so I can just focus on wrestling and next year if I do make it to the Games I'll be a bit more confident in the venue."

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