A New Zealand farm lobby group says sheep shearing has the potential to become an Olympic demonstration sport. Just don't count on seeing it at London next summer or Rio in 2016.
The "time has come to elevate shearing's sporting status to the ultimate world stage," the New Zealand Federated Farmers said in a statement Monday, adding that the world's top shearers are "athletes who take it to another level."
While shearing is a sport, its chances of becoming an Olympic event - even a demonstration one - are slim.
The Olympic sports program is decided a minimum of six years in advance of a scheduled games through a complicated process that includes strict criteria including global participation by male and female athletes. For example, baseball and softball were cut from the Olympic program for 2012 and 2016 because they aren't played in enough countries.
New Zealand produces some of the world's best shearers and its national championship, the Golden Shears, receives substantial media coverage in the country. Other shearing countries include Ireland and Australia. New Zealand will host the world shearing championships in March, and Federated Farmers Meat and Fiber chairwoman Jeannette Maxwell said it was an appropriate time for the sport to press for wider international recognition.
"One way would be to make shearing a demonstration sport at a Commonwealth Games, if not, the Olympics itself," she said. Maxwell said men's and women's world record-holders, Ivan Scott of Ireland and Kerri-Jo Te Huia of New Zealand, showed the athleticism necessary to reach the top of world shearing.
"Ivan regained his world eight-hour solo lamb title by shearing 749 lambs, seven more than the previous world record," she said.
"Kerri-Jo smashed the women's eight-hour solo lamb shearing world record by shearing 507 lambs, 37 more than the previous record."
To be accepted on the Olympic program, a sport first must be recognized by the International Olympic Committee by being widely practiced around the world and administered by an international federation that ensures that the sport's activities follow the Olympic Charter.
Dance sport, squash and 10-pin bowling have lobbied unsuccessfully for many years to be accepted as Olympic sports. Maxwell said New Zealand's government sports funding agency Sparc recognized shearing as a sport and Australia had previously pressed for its inclusion in the Commonwealth Games.