Times Colonist

Olympic cham­pion wrestler Wiebe eyes re­turn to com­pe­ti­tion

- DONNA SPENCER Sports · Olympic Games · Surrey · Serbia · Belgrade · Ottawa · Rio 2016 · Tokyo · Stittsville, Ontario · Ontario · Calgary · Ohio University · Ohio · International Olympic Committee · Wrestling · Erica Wiebe

Olympic cham­pion wrestler Er­ica Wiebe feels it’s time to get back on the com­pe­ti­tion mat.

She and team­mate Amar Dh­esi of Sur­rey in­tend to rep­re­sent Canada at a De­cem­ber World Cup in Bel­grade, Ser­bia, un­less the COVID-19 virus de­rails those plans.

It has been al­most nine months since the two Cana­di­ans com­peted in the Pan Amer­i­can Olympic qual­i­fi­ca­tion tour­na­ment in Ot­tawa. Wrestling with no fans watch­ing in mid-March, they punched their tick­ets to the 2020 Sum­mer Olympics in Tokyo. Less than two weeks later, the Sum­mer Olympics were post­poned un­til 2021.

Wiebe is ready to nav­i­gate the pan­demic pit­falls and com­pli­ca­tions of in­ter­na­tional travel to re­boot her com­pet­i­tive jour­ney to Tokyo. “It’s been re­ally crazy be­cause in my 10 years on the Cana­dian na­tional team, I’ve never not com­peted for this long,” said 31-year-old Wiebe, from Stittsvill­e, Ont.

“I’m wrestling and train­ing bet­ter than I ever have. I’ve just taken so much time to de­velop, to re­ally dig into some tech­ni­cal and tac­ti­cal skills. The train­ing vol­umes are so dif­fer­ent com­pared to when we’re trav­el­ling to Europe ev­ery month.

“When I think about com­pet­ing in Ser­bia in three weeks, it’s re­ally ex­cit­ing to just see where I’m at, to ex­pe­ri­ence a com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment and go through that process.”

The reigning Olympic cham­pion in the 75-kilo­gram class trains in Cal­gary.

Dh­esi, a 25-year-old who wres­tles in the men’s heavy­weight di­vi­sion, is train­ing at the Univer­sity of Ohio.

“All this train­ing doesn’t doesn’t ac­tu­ally pre­pare for the real thing on the mat,” Dh­esi said from Colum­bus.

“I need to get in front of a real ref­eree and stand be­side a real op­po­nent, blow the whis­tle and see what hap­pens. I’m just grate­ful Canada is let­ting us go.”

The tour­na­ment Dec. 12-18 in Ser­bia’s cap­i­tal city was ini­tially the world cham­pi­onship. With some coun­tries un­able or un­will­ing to at­tend, it was down­graded to a World Cup.

Both Wiebe and Dh­esi say there will be enough high-cal­i­bre op­po­nents to war­rant trav­el­ling there.

Wrestling Canada wres­tled with risk and re­ward in de­cid­ing the World Cup was an op­tion for the Cana­dian team. Some ath­letes chose not to go.

“We’ve had ath­letes that train­ing wise are prob­a­bly ready to go and com­pete in Ser­bia, but don’t feel com­fort­able do­ing so,” high-per­for­mance di­rec­tor Lúcás Ó’Ceal­lacháin said.

“We haven’t forced any­body to do that. We have some ath­letes that still live at home, that have el­derly rel­a­tives that live with them that will be con­sid­ered high-risk.”

Canada’s six-strong con­tin­gent will con­sist of Ó’Ceal­lacháin, Wiebe, Dh­esi, their coaches and an ath­letic ther­a­pist.

Wrestling Canada used the re­turn-to-com­pe­ti­tion as­sess­ment tool de­vel­oped by Own The Podium and the Cana­dian Olympic Com­mit­tee, as well as con­sult­ing med­i­cal ex­perts, to de­ter­mine how safe it was for Cana­dian ath­letes to com­pete in Bel­grade.

“They are pre­cious cargo,” Ó’Ceal­lacháin said. “We take it very se­ri­ously how we’re go­ing to take care of them. Ser­bia has been very good at pro­vid­ing ex­ten­sive doc­u­men­ta­tion in terms of what their plans are and what they’re go­ing to do.”

 ?? THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS ?? Er­ica Wiebe has not com­peted for nearly nine months.
THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS Er­ica Wiebe has not com­peted for nearly nine months.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada