Canadian wrestlers fight to bring home more hardware
GOLD COAST, Australia – Day two of the 2018 Commonwealth Games saw Canadian wrestlers fighting back to bring medals home for Canada. In the end, Canada captured a silver and two bronze medals at the Carrara Sports Precinct.
You would think that for a 2016 Olympian and 2014 Commonwealth Games Gold medalist, returning to the 2018 Commonwealth Games would have been a given and lower on the list of life-long achievements, not so for Danielle Lappage (Olds, AB). Riding a high in 2016 heading into the Summer Olympic Games in Rio, an accomplishment that her entire wrestling career had led to, it was on the warmup mat moments before she was to wrestle in front of the world, that Lappage suffered a devastating and shocking torn hamstring. Managing to still defiantly step on the mat determined to not let her Olympic dream die, Lappage struggled and after 40 seconds the win went to Yuliya Ostapchuk from Ukraine. Lappage was done, and when Ostapchuk lost a match, Lappage was out and left to process the reality and to start to heal.
18 months later, Lappage has returned to an event that holds special meaning to her based on her 2014 Commonwealth Games gold-medal but also because of the hard-work and determination it took to overcome her potentially career-ending injury and make the team again against the odds.
“After the Rio Olympics I didn’t know if I would be able to come back, let alone be here in Australia, I feel so blessed to be here,” said Lappage. “Even walking out for my first bout here on the Gold Coast, I felt very emotional and so fortunate to be able to do what I love.”
Here at the Gold Coast Games Lappage competed in the revised 68 kg weight-class in a Nordic round robin format. Having to wrestle every athlete competing within her class, Lappage defeated Gaelle Alakame Anzong of Cameroon and Divya Kakran of India both eventually by technical superiority and Sherin Sultana of Bangladesh 10-0 to earn her chance at the gold medal. The gold wasn’t to be Lappage’s today. Blessing Oborundu of Nigeria defeated Lappage 4-3, with Lappage taking the silver medal. Although upset, earlier Lappage had realized the significance of coming back from her injury.
“Anytime I get a chance to wrestle I don’t take it for granted anymore,” said Lappage. “Making this team is the second proudest thing I have accomplished, after making the Olympic team, because it was such a hard 18 months to get back.”
In the Men’s 65 kg weight-class Vince De Marinis of Pierrefonds, QC wrestled Mehrdad Tarash of Australia in the 1/8 finals and won handily 12-1 and proceeded to do the same in the quarterfinals in a bout with Wahab of Pakistan. In the 65 kg semi-final De Marinis lost to the Indian wrestler moving on to fight for a bronze medal against Amas Danziel of Nigeria but lost in the final seconds with the tie in points of 4-4 going to Danziel.
Jordie Steen (Tecumseh, ON), Canada’s Commonwealth team member for 97 kg ended up following the same path as Di Marinis winning his 1/8 against Leon Rattigan of England 10-0 and quarters against Umair Ahmad of Pakistan 11-0. In the semifinal, Steen was beaten by South African wrestler Martin Erasmus 12-2 and would have to battle for bronze. Steen, who is following some remarkable footsteps, describes his parents as his greatest influence as they have inspired him to follow his dream of one day representing Canada at the Olympic Games just as his father David Lee “Dave” Steen did as a decathlete at the Summer Olympics (84, 88) and his mother Andrea as a hurdler at the 1984 Olympics. In the evening session, Steen faced Samuel Belkin of New Zealand in a battle for bronze. After successfully winning with enough points for technical superiority Jordie spoke jokingly about the accomplishment in relation to his father.
“My father earned a silver medal at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, so I’m not looking to one up him, but I’m hoping I can get a medal somewhere else and beat him there, that would be great,” said Steen with a smile on his face.
Canada’s fourth entry for the second day of wrestling at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games was Emily Schaefer (Sarnia, ON) of the Brock Wrestling Club at 57 kg. Schaefer first met Moceyawa of New Zealand who Schaefer pinned. In her second bout, Schaefer battled Pooja Dhanda of India losing 12-5. Schaefer would need to continue in her round robin format and win two more matches to win gold. In a bout against Odunayo Adekuoroye, lost the bout 4-0 putting her in the bronze medal match. Not letting a chance for a medal get away, Schaefer fought hard and ended up showing superiority and winning 13-3 against Joseph Essombe Tiako of Cameroon. Having sprained her ac (acromioclavicular) joint in an earlier match, Schaefer spoke about fighting through the pain.
“I had to alter warmup and heading into the match I knew it was going to hurt but pain is a state of mind and I had to get over that and know that I had to do what I had to do for a medal,” said Schaefer.
Wrestling action continues tomorrow at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games for the last day with Canadians going for more medals including 2016 Olympian and 2014 Commonwealth Champion Korey Jarvis (125 kg) of Elliot Lake, ON, Olympian and 2017 World bronze medalist Michelle Fazzari (62 kg) of Hamilton, ON, 2013 World Bronze Medalist and 2010 Commonwealth Games bronze medalist Jessica MacDonald (50 kg) of Windsor, ON and Alex Moore (86 kg) of Montreal, QC.