For the first time since 2002, USA Wrestling, the governing body that presides over amateur wrestling in the United States, will not send a team to the UWW (United World Wrestling) Senior World Championships. The World Championships are scheduled for December 12-20 in Belgrade, Serbia.
The USA Wrestling Executive Committee voted unanimously not to send its delegation to Belgrade, citing health and safety concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The health and safety of US athletes, coaches and staff is always the number one concern for USA Wrestling. After reviewing updated medical, scientific, and government data, and providing an opportunity for athlete and stakeholder input, the Executive Committee concluded that it would not be in the best interest of all involved to organize a delegation to travel to and participate in the Senior World Championships in Serbia,” said USA Wrestling President and 13x World and Olympic medalist, Bruce Baumgartner.
The US State Department’s Travel Advisory for Serbia is currently at Level 3 of four, with advisement to “reconsider travel to Serbia due to COVID-19.”
What are the UWW Senior World Championships?
Typically held during Olympic off-years, the UWW World Championships feature member nations from across the globe, sending contingents to represent their home countries in Men’s Freestyle, Men’s Greco-Roman, and Women’s Freestyle. Each style is represented in ten different weight classes. Gold, Silver, and two Bronze medals are awarded per weight classes. Medalists score points for their home countries and cumulative scores are kept for the three disciplines. The US traditionally sends teams in all three styles, and finished fourth in Men’s Freestyle and third in Women’s freestyle in 2019 with five gold medals and two bronze medals.
UWW also canceled the Jr. World Championships set to run in Belgrade a week earlier. All 2020 UWW age-group World Championships have been canceled, except for the Senior level. USA Wrestling also canceled it’s Junior, 16U, and 14U National Championships at both the individual and dual team levels this past summer. USA Wrestling did host its 2020 Senior Nationals in Coralville, IA, on October 7-11 and sponsoring a plethora of age group events at scattered locations throughout the US this fall.
The last time the US declined to send a team was in 2002 at the World Championships in Tehran, Iran. One year after 9/11, US intelligence received credible threats to the athlete’s safety and decided to pull out. Though diplomatic relations with Tehran remain strained, USA Wrestling has sent delegations to Iran in recent years and found their athletes welcomed into the country by rabid Iranian wrestling fans. In 2017, the US dual team competed in the Tehran-hosted World Cup and met Iran in the championship round.
Famously, the US declined to send a team to the 1980 Olympic games in Moscow, an act the USSR echoed at the 1984 Los Angeles games.
Featured image credit @SJanickiPhoto