Interview with Mr Nenad Lalovic, United World Wrestling President – IOC Member

On the first day of the 1st ISF World School Sport Games 2021, Belgrade, Serbia, the ISF had the pleasure of receiving the President of the UWW, Mr Nenad Lalovic. Mr Lalovic met with ISF’s Secretary General/CEO, Hrvoje Custonja, and spoke with us about his impressions of the event and why Wrestling and School Sport should be side by side for the development of both, student-athletes and the sport itself.

ISF: What is your main feeling related to the organisation of the 1st ISF U15 World School Sport Games 2021 in Belgrade?

I am delighted that such a huge competition is being held in my city, Belgrade, and I wish all of you and the participating young athletes great success during these School Games.

ISF: How did the cooperation between ISF and United World Wrestling begin?

We started our close cooperation in 2017 by signing the Memorandum with Mr Petrynka from the ISF. And since then, we have tried to assist the ISF in organising the competitions for younger age classes in our sport. This is very interesting for us, and we have the greatest respect for this event.

ISF: How does an event like ISF U15 help in the development of a sport such as wrestling

Since 2014 we have completely changed the approach of our activities and their development. School sport, of course, was one of the main topics we wanted to discuss and develop in the future. Today, we negotiate with different governments, different ministries of sport, so we can have wrestling in primary school education. Maybe the strongest national championship is the collegiate level one in the US. We believe that our sport, for being one of the most natural sports with the human body and human psychology, should be hugely represented in the education system.

ISF: How can wrestling collaborate on the development of student-athletes? What does the sport offer that makes it so unique?

I would say it is a natural sport. The way athletes fight and grab, if you go to kindergartens, you will see similar moves of the kids when they play. And this is the same within nature. If you look at a bear grabbing, it is exactly wrestling. So the movements are natural for human bodies and human brains. And besides that, wrestling is one of the hardest, most exhausting, and demanding sports and develops the physical and the psychological strengths of those who are performing. 

ISF: Why is it important to provide this kind of sport experience to the young generations?

When we speak about development, we speak about spreading the practice of one sport. But it is not only that. It must be done in a professional way. Because wrestling might be a dangerous sport too, especially, when we have a different level of skills between two opponents. And while trying to have more countries take part in our competition, we are also educating them to be at the level of others. And this is not always easy, especially today when all sports have a huge problem with educators, coaches in all specific sports. So, providing coaches for all those areas of the world is not an easy task. On the other hand, we have maybe the best basis of all sports for the development of our sport.  The reason is that traditional wrestling exists in each village, from Africa to Yakutia, from the south of Argentina to China. There are villages in Mongolia where the wedding cannot start without a wrestling match. This tradition is very deeply planted in the soul of human beings.