Freestyle wrestler Erica Wiebe, a gold-medalist for Canada at the Summer Olympics in 2016, passed on her thoughts, insights and experiences as a competitive athlete to students and to wrestlers from around the province.
Wiebe was in Weyburn for three days, as she visited several schools on Friday in the city, then held a free wrestling clinic for interested children on Saturday morning before she hosted a two-day clinic for wrestlers from clubs around Saskatchewan on Saturday and Sunday at St. Michael School.
Her school visits included St. Michael, Weyburn Comprehensive, Haig and Assiniboia Park schools.
In sharing her experiences with the students throughout the day, she explained that she played other sports first, including soccer, volleyball and skiing, and didn’t even try wrestling out until she was in Grade 9 in a town in Ontario near Ottawa.
A tryout for the sport came up, and she attended it with three of her best friends, quipping, “I thought it would be a great opportunity to wear spandex and wrestle with boys.”
After the tryouts, two of her friends decided wrestling was not their interest, but she and one of her friends went on to take part in the sport.
“Right away, I was hooked, I loved it,” said Wiebe, and she got into the sport all through junior and senior high school. After graduation, she had a big decision to make, and decided to make the move to the University of Calgary, “because they had the best program at the time, the best coaches, and I wanted to be in an environment where I could train with the best.”
At first, the competing was hard as she didn’t win a single match or even score a point.
“I kept getting put down, again and again. I didn’t make the wrestling team, but there was an opportunity to go to a junior varsity championship, with people my age and my weight class,” said Wiebe.
She went on to compete and travel around the world for the first time to represent Canada, and four years later she had the opportunity to try out for the 2012 Olympic Games.
“I came within 30 seconds of making the team,” said Wiebe, noting that in spite of her disappointment, she kept on with her training and competing. When the time cam four years later for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, she made Team Canada and trained hard.
“I had these fears of failing, as I had the pressure of 35 million Canadians on me,” said Wiebe.
She had an accident about five days before she had to go, and had to have six stitches put in to her eyebrow — but she knew when she landed in Rio that she was going to put her best forward.
“I landed in Rio and I knew in that moment that I was invincible. I knew that whatever happens, I was ready,” said Wiebe, noting she went on to win the gold medal for Canada.
“The cool thing is in wrestling, you can have success no matter how big you are or how small you are. You can wrestle anywhere in the world, and anybody can do that,” she said, encouraging the students to try the sport out.
Wiebe also encouraged the students to always try hard in whatever circumstance they find themselves in.
“There are going to be challenges, and all you have to do is take it one step further,” she said.
Wiebe will be taking part in the trials for the 2020 Olympic Games on Dec. 6-8, and is hopeful to make a return to that international stage.
Asked how preparing for these Olympics are compared to four years ago, Wiebe said, “Everything is the same, but everything is different at the same time.”
The best part of the Olympic experience for her was when she entered the stadium, knowing everything that she put into her training to prepare for that moment.
“I didn’t really care what the outcome was, as long as I had a good performance. I knew I could be the best in the world, I had that capability,” said Wiebe. “I never even really dreamed about it.”