Taki Taki

High life | 18 August 2016

Wrestling, perhaps the last truly amateur sport, gets a welcome injection of funding in the US

An item in an American newspaper had me thinking of my father all last week. Old dad died 27 years ago, which means I have outlived him in age, the only thing I have ever outdone him in. His achievements were too many to list here, and everything I have I owe to him. Compared to his accomplishments, mine has been the underperformance of the century, not that he ever made it obvious. To the contrary, all he did was praise me. He was extremely generous to everyone, especially his employees, took care of those who couldn’t care for themselves, was a decorated hero during the occupation, and I’m proud to have inherited his sense of humour and his womanising. He’s never far from my mind, so I didn’t need the item in the newspaper to remind me of him.

But it sure brought back memories. Here it goes: for most athletes in the Olympics, a medal is the ultimate payoff. Not for wrestlers, however, the sport that remains as pure as it was in ancient times, but whose name has been muddled in the public’s mind with that phony show that is called professional wrestling. Olympic wrestlers do not get the endorsements after a victory that, say, a great track and field athlete does, or a swimmer.

At least in America, where wrestlers are not sponsored by the state, as they are elsewhere, and are mostly dependent for a college education on scholarships to make ends meet. Until now, that is. A billionaire by the name of Mike Novogratz, a private equity tycoon, heads a fraternity of well-heeled former wrestlers, several of whom have made it big on Wall Street. They have offered a prize of half a million greenbacks for a gold, and less lucre for silver and bronze, suddenly making wrestlers the envy of athletes not named Bolt or Phelps.

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