U15 World School Sport Games Belgrade 2021 – Growing Wrestling in the School Sport Community

On 11 September the ISF launched its first ever U15 World School Sport Games,  with this edition taking place in the city of Belgrade, Serbia. With 14 sports on the competition programme, and a total of 2500 participants from 36 countries coming from around the world, this event for younger school student athletes provides a perfect platform for international federations to get involved with additional activities to better engage with the school sport community. 
One of the 14 sports that makes up this event is wrestling. Being a staple sport in the ISF calendar, United World Wrestling (UWW) decided to cooperate on an additional level in Belgrade, and further develop the current partnership in place with ISF since the first Memorandum of Understanding was signed back in 2017. From that significant moment, they have supported the ISF in organising wrestling competitions for school students, with one of the objectives of UWW being to strongly represent the practice of wrestling in educational platforms, such as this U15 event. “When we speak about development, we speak about spreading the practice of one sport. But it must be done in a professional way. 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.” said Mr Nenad Lalovic, President of UWW.

The ISF can also count on the expertise and dedication of Mr Habibollah Akhlaghi, the ISF Wrestling Technical Commission President, who is an Asian Games gold medalist and two times bronze medallist at the wrestling World Championships. His experience as an athlete and a competitor bring another dimension to this ISF wrestling contest. As an international sportsman, he also knows how it is important to expand sport, especially throughout youth: “we have to show this competition to the world, and every value that can bring this competition, with the help of UWW”.

A total of the 82 athletes, from 9 nations: Azerbaijan; Brazil; Bulgaria; Croatia; Estonia; Kyrgyzstan, Romania, Ukraine, United Kingdom; are having a good time “I feel excited, I like the structure of the event, it’s amazing to compete with other nations, and I made new friendships !” said an athlete representing Ukraine’s delegation.

On Thursday 17 September there was the opportunity to watch the girls Freestyle competition online, with the Olympic Channel broadcasting the event. The replay is now available for those who weren’t able to catch it you can watch the replay: 

Aside from the competition, in order to provide educational aspects to the event, the UWW is implementing certain activities in the Fun & Skills Zone at the Kalemegdan fortress, as well as in the different sport accommodations for the event. The main goal was to propose activities that can develop self-confidence in students and share important knowledge of safeguarding and anti-doping in sport, through wrestling. From the UWW side there has been a lot of expertise brought in for this educational aspect of the event. Experts, former athletes, and coaches have been mobilised to organise workshops throughout the week. Zack Erret, Education Manager of UWW, and an Olympic Wrestling Referee and Coach, spoke to ISF about some of the most unique aspects of conducting educational activities in an international environment during the U15 World School Sport Games in Belgrade: “One of the most challenging and interesting moments was observing athletes going through the activities. With a language barrier at times limiting the traditional communication methods, it was important to use creative and innovative ways to convey messages and instructions to help participants discover knowledge and skills as well as express themselves.”

With one more day of competition left, there is still plenty of wrestling to see in Belgrade. Future ISF events will continue to contribute to the development and growth of wrestling in the school sport community with participants being able to discover the sport in various ways, learning about Olympic Values and skills as they develop into future responsible citizens of the world.