Wrestlers Deliver Four Medals on First Day of Gold Coast Wrestling
GOLD COAST, Australia – Wrestling Canada Lutte is looking for 12 medals here at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, and day one saw four wrestler add to Canada’s medal tally.
Day eight at the 2018 Commonwealth Games saw the first of three full days of Canada’s best wrestlers going for gold against the best wrestlers in the Commonwealth. Competition for day one included 2016 Olympic gold medalist and 2014 Commonwealth Games medalist Erica Wiebe (Stitsville, ON) competing at 76 kg, 2014 Commonwealth Games Silver Medalist Jevon Balfour (Scarborough, ON) at 74 kg, Diana Weicker (St. Catharines, ON) at 53 kg and Steven Takahashi at 57 kg from London Ontario.
In a fast, two mat format, the Canadians wrestled in quick succession to an appreciative and knowledgeable crowd here in Gold Coast Australia showing their superior abilities. Olympic Champion Erica Wiebe was strong and confident on the mat, winning over Sierra Leon and England by fall and technical superiority. With her eye on defending her 2014 Commonwealth Games Championship, Wiebe looked back on how far she had come in the last four years.
“It is so crazy to think that it was only four years ago, I feel like so much has happened,” said the 2016 Olympic Champion at 75 kg. “Even being here, I now have so much experience and there are way less surprises but it is still so thrilling, still the nerves, still the excitement and still the passion for wrestling. I love this sport and I love competing on the biggest stage so it will be exciting to be in the final tonight.”
Wiebe met 2014 Commonwealth Games Bronze Medalist Blessing Onyebuchi of Nigeria in the final. After claiming the gold with a pin Wiebe celebrated the accomplishment.
“I knew the match was going to be tough, strong and physical. I was down early on when I made a tactical mistake so I didn’t wrestle my best out there but I love when I am down, I love when the pressure is on and I always come to play,” said Wiebe. “As I was prepping for my match it was a familiar feeling but it doesn’t make it any easier, it is still a wrestling match and this sport is so amazing because there are no barriers people from all over the world can be champions. I am just lucky to have my great day today and keep the Commonwealth Games gold in Canada.”
At 57 kg, Steve Takahashi of the London-Western Wrestling Club was in control beating Jan Combrinck of South Africa 6-1 in the quarterfinal and beating Ebikewenimo Welson of Nigeria in the semifinal by fall. Takahashi is coached by his father Ray Takahashi, a longtime wrestling coach and also a silver medalist in Australia, having won at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane Australia. In the gold medal match against Rahul Aware of India Takahashi battled hard but left the mat with a silver medal.
Having beat everyone in her 53 kg weight class by technical superiority, including Carissa Holland of Australia, Deepika Dilhani of Sri Lanka and Bose Samuel of Nigeria in a Nordic System round-robin, Diana Weicker, a mother of two and registered nurse in pediatrics at the St. Catharines hospital, faced Indian wrestler Babita Kumari, the 2014 Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist. Upon winning and claiming the gold medal, Weicker talked of her family and the sacrifices she had made.
“My husband is so supportive to allow me to chase this dream and I am so proud that I can take home this title,” said Weicker. “I know my boys don’t quite understand they are still so young but I think that they will be proud too when they understand. I am so thankful and fortunate to have the family that I do that are so supportive each and every step of every day.”
For Jevon Balfour, claiming the 2018 Commonwealth Games 74 kg gold medal had a barrier in the way in the form of Indian wrestler Kumar Sushil. Based on the draw, Balfour met the 2012 Olympic silver medalist in London and bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and lost 11-0. Fighting back in the repechage Balfour beat Muhammad Asad Butt 10 – 1 in a show of technical superiority earning a chance to fight for bronze against Connor Evans of Australia for bronze. Balfour earned the bronze medal winning the bout with technical superiority.
Wrestling action continues tomorrow at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games with Canadians going for more medals including 2016 Olympian and 2014 Commonwealth Champion Danielle Lappage of Olds, AB, Vince De Marinis (65 kg) of Pierrefonds, QC, Jordan Steen (97 kg) of Tecumseh, ON and Emily Schaefer (57 kg) of Sarnia, ON.
The Wrestling Canada Lutte coaching staff and association are confident that the 2018 Commonwealth Games have started in the right way for the Canadian wrestlers.
“The coaches and I are quite happy with the performances of the team,” says Wrestling Canada International Coach Tonya Verbeek. “It’s a good start to the Games and we look forward to more finals in the days ahead.”
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