Olympic Dreams and History in Waiting
(Rio de Janeiro) – With the Olympic flame now lit and the Rio opening ceremony flag raised, the 2016 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, have begun. For eight Canadian wrestlers, under the distant shadow of the Christ the Redeemer statue and not too far from Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro’s famed beach, the time is now to take advantage of the opportunity that their hard work has granted them; the opportunity to shine on the Olympic stage.
Canada’s eight wrestlers representing Wrestling Canada Lutte at these Olympics, the #6Pack as they are known on social channels, Jasmine Mian (48 KG), Jillian Gallays (53 KG), Michelle Fazzari (58 KG), Danielle Lappage (63 KG), Dorothy Yeats (69 KG) and Erica Wiebe (75 KG) as well as men’s freestyle Olympians Haislan Garcia (65 KG) and Korey Jarvis (125 KG) arrived on Thursday August 4th, one day before the Rio 2016 opening ceremony. Touring the village for the first time the athletes were beaming with an excitement that built all day and would make it hard for any to sleep that night, only to rise as the opening ceremony day was upon them.
The ceremony didn’t disappoint. Danielle Lappage, the Olds, Alberta native whose home community, as with all the wrestlers, had rallied around the athlete and had shown unwavering pride and support, said it best as she marched in the Rio Olympic ceremony for the first time.
“What a dream,” said Lappage.
Fellow teammate Jasmine Mian of Barrie, ON, inspiringly shared how the experience was surreal, seemingly coming true right before her.
“Our Road to Rio has come to an end because we are finally in Rio,” said Mian, who trains in Calgary with fellow #6packer Erica Wiebe. “Walking into the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games is a dream I’ve had since I was young. Now, it is a memory I will keep with me until I’m old and gray! The fire has always been in our hearts but now the torch is officially lit!”
The team is focused. Preparing to leave the athletes village for a training location free of the village distractions, the team held a media conference allowing Canadian media to get their soundbites and interviews prior to the team leaving the village. After the media conference Wrestling Canada Lutte’s Women’s National Coach and Rio 2016 Head Coach for the wrestling team, Leigh Vierling spoke of the team’s readiness and preparations.
“Today was a great opportunity for our team to share their personal journeys and some of the lessons learned on the road to Rio with the Media, said Vierling. “Our staff and wrestling community could not be more proud of the way our athletes compete on the mat, and carry themselves off of it. We have one final week of preparations prior to the start of our competitions and the team is fit, focused and eager to get their chance to make their Olympic dreams and goals a reality.”
With only four female wrestlers qualified for the London 2012 Olympics, half of them returned with medals; Tonya Verbeek with a silver and Carol Huynh with a bronze. Fully aware of the stats of the past, for 2016, the Canadians are prepared for the battle.
The six Canadian women, who had two weight classes qualified at the 2015 Senior World Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas and the remaining four (53 KG, 58 KG, 69 KG and 75 KG) dominantly qualified, all with the gold, at the Pan Am qualifier in Frisco, Texas in early March 2016, have been cited widely as Canadian medal hopefuls. According to United World Wrestling rankings, currently all six women are all in the top 20, three in the top ten and Wiebe (Stittsville ON) ranked second in the world within her 75 KG weight class.
“Erica has defeated her entire field of athletes as well as had an incredible string of big tournament wins in the last two years,” said Vierling. “I believe all six women have shots at medals. As a team we are shooting for the best team performance in the history of our women’s program.”
For the men, with up to 68 countries represented, both three-time Olympian Haislan Garcia and Elliot Lake’s Korey Jarvis have each talked of taking every opportunity, that the time is now and that they are not even thinking yet of making plans for after these Olympics in Rio.
“I have so many people to thank for supporting me… my focus is now, said Jarvis. “I am not sure what the future holds, but my focus better be the opportunity before me as I’m not sure I have another four years in me.”
Competition at the Carioca Arena 2 within the Rio Olympic Park will begin Wednesday August 17 with Mian, Yeats (Montreal) and Fazzari (St Catharines, ON) competing. August 18 will also focus on the women with Gallays (Saskatoon), Lappage and Wiebe looking for the day of their lives. The men’s freestyle events continue on August 20 with Jarvis bringing his A game and Garcia (Vancouver, BC) rounds out the Canadians on the last day of the Rio Olympics.
Ceremony experience and village visits now done, for eight Canadian wrestlers their Olympic story is being written as they live it. As they focus on their final week of preparations, the team will now take the time they need to sharpen their pens as they represent their country, support each other as they shine on the Olympic mats and write the final page of their 2016 Olympic story.