SOFIA: Bulgarian wrestling coach and two-times Olympic champion Armen Nazaryan has started a hunger strike to protest the sport being dumped from the 2020 Olympics, the country's wrestling federation said Sunday.
"The two times Olympic champion will not eat until the start of the European Championship on March 22 in Tbilisi, Georgia ... and will only take juices," a statement said.
"Wrestling has always been on the Olympics programme and it is not right to take it out. I sincerely hope that my action will convince the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to review its decision," Nazaryan said in the statement.
The IOC executive panel decided last month to exclude wrestling from the 2020 Games programme, prompting protests from other figures in the sport as well as creating an unlikely common cause for geopolitical foes Iran and the United States.
Nazaryan, 38, was an Olympic champion for Armenia in the Greco-Roman style at the 1996 Games in Atlanta and also won gold and bronze for Bulgaria at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and the 2004 Athens Games.
He is currently chief coach of Bulgaria's Greco-Roman wrestling team.
Bulgaria's women wrestling coach, two times World and four times European freestyle champion Serafim Barzakov, was also ready to go on hunger strike to support Nazaryan, the federation added.
Wrestling has been Bulgaria's most successful Olympic sport with its athletes winning a total of 16 titles.
The country's wrestling federation chief Valentin Yordanov has already protested the IOC's decision to remove the ancient sport from the 2020 Olympic schedule by returning his 1996 Olympic gold medal to IOC's headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.