Women's Wrestling

Wrestling Wraps Up Historic Women’s Development Camp

By Tim Foley

TOKYO (April 2) – United World Wrestling conducted it’s largest-ever women’s wrestling development camp last week in Tokyo, with more than 160 wrestlers and coaches from 21 nations participating in the landmark camp.

“This was a major step for the sport of women’s wrestling,” remarked United World Wrestling president Nenad Lalovic. “We have been trying very hard to increase participation in events and to bring attention to our strong women. This camp was a perfect success.”

The camp followed the 2018 Women’s Wrestling World Cup in Takasaki and was sponsored by United World Wrestling. The Japanese Wrestling Federation was a key partner, helping to provide lodging, food, transportation, and instruction

“Anywhere in the world where we can come together, I think we are going to grow and we are going to grow this sport,” said Erica WIEBE (CAN). The 2016 Olympic Champion was on hand for all five days of the camp. “Wrestling, it changes lives!”

Athletes were taught new warm-up techniques, drills and spent several hours sparring. The enthusiasm and comradery expressed by the women was also conspicuous, with bouts of laughter intermingling with even the toughest conditioning workouts.

The camp featured coaching instruction with coaches from Japan, China, United States, Belarus and more. While aimed at the athletes, the coaches said they found the camp to be beneficial to their development, often learning new ways to pique the interest of their girls.

China's coaching staff has a new face in Simon ATANASSOV. The Bulgarian national recently came off a coaching stint in Azerbaijan (Photo: Max Rose Fyne)

Simon ATANASSOV, a familiar face to wrestling fans around the world, attended his first-ever camp as a member of the Team China coaching staff. Atanassov recently took up residence to Beijing after five years in Azerbaijan, where he was the head men’s and women’s wrestling coach.

“I believe all the coaches gained something from me and I gained from them. I learnt from Japan and America. We shared each other’s experience and became better coaches. This is just great! I am for the development of wrestling!”

The camp attendees also visited Tokyo as part of a group tour put together by the JWF. Wrestlers saw the site for wrestling at the 2020 Tokyo Games before being taken on a tour of popular tourist destinations.

“The Japanese wrestlers have been so open with us,” said three-time world champion Adeline GRAY (USA). “They are pulling us into activities on and off the mat, showing us what foods to eat and not to eat. How to get on and off the train. Where to shop. It’s been that social aspect along with the competition in wrestling.”

“We are all out and having fun, but we are all sore!” said Gray.

Women's Wrestling

Wrestler Yasemin Adar Wins Mustafa Koç Sports Award


Mustafa Koç, the late Turkish businessman who we lost too soon, was a leading advocate of the United Nations’ “HeForShe” initiative, which aims to get the support of men for gender equality. If he could have seen who won the second Mustafa V. Koç Sports Award, organized by Holding and the Turkish Olympics Committee, he would surely have been very pleased.

Designed by the famous designer Ivan Chermayeff, and presented by Caroline Koç, the wife of the late businessman, the award trophy was received this year by 2018 World Wrestling Champion Yasemin Adar.

She is Turkey’s first woman world champion wrestler. Adar, who also earned a 200,000 Turkish Lira prize, is a three-time successive (2016-2017-2018) world champion. When top jury Caroline Koç announced the award, she described Adar as “determined, hardworking and disciplined.” After an emotional introductory film, Adar’s speech revealed the determination of a woman who chose wrestling, widely considered a “sports for men.”

Do women ever wrestle? 

“When I started wrestling, there were many prejudices. I was often told I should not do this sport and that I could not do it. As a woman, I proved what I could achieve by ignoring what was being said, by never giving up, believing in myself, never stopping and by practicing with passion.”

Adar is a role model for all women in Turkey who wish to take up wrestling.

In many cities of Turkey, there are “women’s wrestling clubs” which were opened after Adar’s successes.

There are many girls who wish to follow her and achieve success just like her. Adar already stressed this in her speech. “I now believe that my struggle was for the new generation of wrestler girls. I stepped on that mat in order to lead their way.”

A legendary name in the Olympics

Another meaningful speech during the ceremony was made by another woman who thought exactly the same as Adar years ago in the sense of leading the way for women. The first African Muslim female athlete who managed to win a gold medal in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics: Nawal El Moutawakel from Morocco.

El Moutawakel, who used to be a vice president in the International Olympics Committee and who became Morocco’s sports and youth minister twice, is one of the legendary figures of the Olympics. Today, she is one of the leading figures of the international Olympics community.

“When I participated in the 1984 Olympics, nobody knew me and nobody believed in me,” she said in her speech.

During her successful career, El Moutawakel struggled for women’s liberation in sports.

“I am where I stand now thanks to the sports,” she said. El Moutawakel, who led the way for Muslim female athletes in the 1980s, and Adar, who leads the way for the female wrestling sports in Turkey, came together due to the Mustafa Koc Sports Awards. Watching and listening to them was a pleasure for all ceremony attendees.