May 16, 2013, 4:52 PM EST
While many were simply mourning the IOC’s recommendation to remove wrestling from the 2020 Olympics schedule, Billy Baldwin was busy doing something about it. And trust us, he went full Baldwin. Billy named himself Hollywood Point Man for the “Keep Olympic Wrestling” effort and has has asked Olympic champs, Hollywood friends, and strangers on the street to pitch in by taking part in PSAs, interviews, and events, raising awareness, and talking about the value that wrestling instilled in their lives. We chatted with Billy about the future of the sport and somehow ended up in a bear hug at Wednesday’s “Rumble on the Rails.”
How’s your role as the Hollywood Point Person for Keep Olympic Wrestling been?
I’ve never done this, so I’m acting as a freaking publicist behind the scenes. I’ve had a couple of my actor friends show up for this, and it’s really so special that they would, and so important to the community. I want to make sure they talk to you guys and get the word out, so I’ve been talking to a lot of people.
Who all have you gotten in touch with about the movement?
Mark Ruffalo’s here, Mike Golic’s here, Ronnie Lott’s here. I’ve talked to Steve Buschemi and Boardwalk Empire director Timmy Van Patten. We have a good crowd coming out to LA, too. We have Mario Lopez and Matthew Modine and Tom Arnold and Randy Couture. I’m working on Jon “Bones” Jones.
Did they contacted you or vice versa?
I’ve been reaching out to a lot of people. Especially people who have a connection with the sport. Ruffalo just filmed Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher about Olympic wrestler David Schultz, and they had a lot of wrestlers on the set, so they’re having a little reunion of sorts. A lot of legends, like Gable and Stan Dziedzic and Gene Mills were his technical advisors on the set, and it was so funny to watch Ruffalo walk in here. Most people would just shake hands and say hello to each other, but wrestlers just start bear hugging and clinching [which is precisely what Billy did to SI's Nick Zaccardi and me right about here]. And to see Ruffalo do that the way we would do that, I was like, “He’s method. That’s method”
Have you been encouraged by the turnout for “Rumble on the Rails”?
It’s been a great event. I was thrilled to have the Iranian crowd here. I wish [the American team] had performed a bit better on the mat. We’ve got a big venue to fill Sunday in Los Angeles. It holds about 14,000 and we’ve already sold about 5,000, so we’ll be in good shape. But I think we’re going to be outnumbered by Iranian-Americans by about ten to one.
Why did you take such an active role in “Keep Olympic Wrestling”?
It’s just a very important cause to me. The sport has always helped to shape young boys into men by instilling the values and discipline and work ethic and mental toughness. And those values transcend the sport. When I stopped wrestling, they became tools for life. They served me well as a husband and a father and in the pursuit of my career. It can serve journalism, investment banking, show business. It’s the gift that’s served me through my thirties and forties, and into my fifties.
And there’s obviously something at stake for the world community.
Yes. If we lose wrestling it’s going to be bad for America, it’s going to be bad for high school and college wrestling in America. But we’re blessed. We have many other Olympic sports and many, many, many, events that we can compete in if you’re a parent looking for something for your kids to do. But in Iran, it’s their national sport. They don’t compete in twenty different sports. Some nations only compete in two or three. This is their NFL. These guys are their Babe Ruth, their New York Yankees, their national pastime. You can tell by how good they were today. And to take this away from some kid in a village outside of Tehran or on a farm in Azerbaijan is just an unenlightened decision.
So do you think events like “Rumble on the Rails” are ultimately the way back?
I think so. The IOC wants to bring back the 18 to 34 year old demographic, so they’re bringing in the halfpipe and the X-Games and they’re saying to wrestling, “We’re warning you. Find a way to make it better for television, cooler, sexier, more popular, and more profitable. And if you don’t, you’re out.”
What about the other sports that want their chance to compete in the Olympics?
They should have their opportunity, but not at the expense of wrestling. We have athletes on every continent, we had competitors from eighty countries in London, we had medalists from 29 countries, and to lose it would not just be unfair, it would be socially unjust.
How could wrestling have avoided ending up here?
I don’t want to bash the IOC, especially since our fate still lies in their hands, but I really truly don’t believe they should have recommended removing wrestling. I think they should have gone in and cleaned house in FILA. The governing body had some failed leadership. They just got lazy and complacent, with a lot of ego and hubris and parlor politics, and look where we are now because of their failed leadership. Now we’re in the process of addressing that issue, and we’re excited about what’s to come.
Dec 8, 2013, 3:39 PM EST
Ted Ligety dominated as usual. Bode Miller looked like the Miller of old. The Americans went one-two in a World Cup giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday. It marked the first time the U.S. put two men on a World Cup podium since Jan. 17, 2009. The world champion Ligety won in a two-run time of 2…
Dec 8, 2013, 1:52 PM EST
Lindsey Vonn improved for the second straight day in her first races in 10 months. The Olympic downhill champion placed fifth in a World Cup super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Sunday. Vonn skied the course in 1 minute, 23.71 seconds. Winner Lara Gut of Switzerland was .85 of a second faster. Vonn, in her first races since blowing…
Dec 8, 2013, 12:51 PM EST
American Heather Richardson and her fiance both won races on the final day of the World Cup speed skating stop in Berlin on Sunday. Richardson, the world sprint champion, won the 1000m in 1 minute, 14.51 seconds, .91 better than U.S. teammate Brittany Bowe. Russian Olga Fatkulina was third. Berlin marked the final World Cup before the Olympics, meaning it’s…
Dec 8, 2013, 12:15 PM EST
Erin Hamlin finished fifth in a World Cup luge race to secure her third Olympic berth on Saturday night. Hamlin, 27, of Remsen, N.Y., is the second USA Luger to clinch a spot in Sochi, joining now two-time Olympian Chris Mazdzer. Hamlin is now a three-time Olympian. The 2009 world champion finished 12th in Torino and 16th…
Dec 8, 2013, 12:08 PM EST
The 2014 U.S. Olympic Team is expected to be its largest in Winter Games history with more than 200 athletes. This list of athletes nominated to the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team will be updated as national governing bodies announce their teams: Biathlon Lowell Bailey — @lowellcbailey Tim Burke — @tb_burke Susan Dunklee — @susandunklee Curling Erika…
Dec 8, 2013, 8:57 AM EST
One of Jesse Owens‘ four 1936 Berlin Olympics gold medals sold for the highest price ever for a piece of Olympic memorabilia on Sunday morning. The medal sold for $1,466,574, according to its listing on SCP Auctions. There were 30 bids in the auction that began Nov. 20. The bidding price was at $370,000 with about…
Dec 7, 2013, 4:28 PM EST
Steve Holcomb is four for four this season. The Olympic champion drove a four-man bobsled to victory in his hometown of Park City, Utah, on Saturday. Holcomb, with Curt Tomasevicz, Steve Langton and Chris Fogt, won with a two-run time of 1 minute, 34.76 seconds. Germany’s Max Arndt was second, .35 of a second back. Russian Aleksander Kasyanov was third. Holcomb, Arndt and…
Dec 7, 2013, 3:58 PM EST
Lindsey Vonn made major strides in less than 24 hours between her first two races since major knee surgery. The Olympic downhill champion finished 11th in a downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta, on Saturday afternoon. On Friday, Vonn was 40th in another Lake Louise downhill, her first race since blowing out her right knee at the…
Dec 7, 2013, 3:38 PM EST
If Ted Ligety is going to be a multiple-medal threat in Sochi, he must produce strong results outside the giant slalom. He took a step in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Saturday, with his third top-five super-G finish over the last four World Cup seasons. Ligety navigated the Birds of Prey course in 1 minute, 22.21 seconds,…
Dec 7, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
U.S. Bobsled has been stellar to start the season, but it’s never been stronger than Saturday. The U.S. swept the medals in Park City, Utah. Elana Meyers and Aja Evans won in a two-run time of 1 minute, 38.61 seconds, followed by Jamie Greubel and Lolo Jones and Jazmine Fenlator and Lauryn Williams, who tied for silver in 1:39.24. It’s the first time since Feb.…
Dec 7, 2013, 1:01 PM EST
Aleksander Kaptarenko trained for the Olympic torch relay by carrying a frozen salmon. Kaptarenko, a 101-year-old table tennis player, became the oldest Olympic relay torchbearer on Saturday, according to R-Sport. He was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1912 and carried an Olympic torch in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk for 200 meters. Kaptarenko has…
Dec 7, 2013, 12:36 PM EST
India’s Olympic Association may no longer be recognized by the International Olympic Committee if it fails to comply with ”rules of good governance” by Tuesday, IOC president Thomas Bach told The Associated Press. India, currently under an IOC suspension, has “corruption-tainted officials” in its Olympic Association’s ranks, the AP reported. “It’s about the principles,” Bach told the AP.…
Dec 7, 2013, 12:36 PM EST
Two-time U.S. snowboardcross Olympian Nate Holland is in jeopardy of missing the Sochi Games after breaking a collarbone in training, the International Ski Federation (FIS) told NBCOlympics.com. Holland, 35, suffered the injury before the first World Cup snowboardcross event in Montafon, Austria, this weekend. Holland was considered a Sochi medal contender. He was 14th at the 2006…
Dec 7, 2013, 11:45 AM EST
Olympic and world champion Yuna Kim fell on her opening jump but still posted a total score beaten by only one other skater during the Grand Prix season at a minor event in Zagreb, Croatia, on Saturday. The South Korean won the Golden Spin with 204.49 points, her first competition this season following a foot injury. Japan’s Mao…
Dec 7, 2013, 10:40 AM EST
U.S. speed skaters bagged two more medals on the penultimate day of the final World Cup before the Sochi Olympics on Saturday. Shani Davis and Heather Richardson won bronze in the 1000m and 500m, respectively. The Berlin World Cup concludes with a men’s 500m and 5000m and a women’s 1000m and team pursuit Sunday. It’s the final opportunity…
Dec 7, 2013, 9:45 AM EST
USA Luge put a men’s singles slider on a World Cup podium for the first time in nearly seven years on Friday night. 2010 Olympian Chris Mazdzer placed a career-best second in Whistler, B.C., the fourth of nine World Cup stops before the Sochi Olympics in February. Mazdzer was fourth after the first of two runs, behind…
Dec 7, 2013, 6:55 AM EST
Skating in a Grand Prix at home perhaps for the last time, Mao Asada claimed gold Saturday at the Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka, Japan, the 23-year-old rising above an error-prone finish in the ladies’ free skate. Fifteen-year-old Russian Yulia Lipnitskaya skated cleanly to jump her way from fourth to second, claiming the silver medal.…
Dec 7, 2013, 5:12 AM EST
A world record to overcome and the Grand Prix Final gold medal on the line, American ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White rose to the occasion Saturday in Fukuoka, Japan. Skating after rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir had delivered a brilliant free dance to give them a highest-ever overall score, 190.00, Davis/White were…
Dec 6, 2013, 9:06 PM EST
The U.S. Bobsled Team continued its golden start to the season, sweeping the two-woman and two-man World Cup races in Park City, Utah, on Friday. Olympic bronze medalist Elana Meyers and Olympic champion Steve Holcomb drove USA-1 sleds to victory at the 2002 Olympic track. Meyers, 29, notched her first career World Cup victory as a driver in her…
Dec 6, 2013, 4:18 PM EST
Lindsey Vonn safely made it down the mountain in her first competition in 10 months, finishing 40th out of 61 skiers at a World Cup downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday. The Olympic downhill champion completed the course in 1 minute, 59.22 seconds. German Maria Hoefl-Riesch won in 1:56.03 (results at bottom). “I was just too nervous,”…
- Ted Ligety, Bode Miller go 1-2 in Beaver Creek giant slalom (video) 1
- Lindsey Vonn says she’s ready for Sochi after best comeback result (video) 1
- Jesse Owens’ gold medal goes for $1.4 million in auction 1
- Lindsey Vonn stronger in second comeback race (video) 3
- U.S. sweeps women’s bobsled in Park City (video) 3
- Russian women kissing after relay victory at World Championships causes stir (54)
- IOC drops wrestling from 2020 Olympics (45)
- Zola Budd, 47, dominates college runners in 5K (29)
- Vladimir Putin tells critics of Russia at World University Games to ‘try some Viagra’ (18)
- IOC convinced there will be no discrimination at Sochi Olympics (16)