I had promised myself going into the 2013 Universiade I would try and blog as much as possible... but alas somewhere between cutting weight, competing, watching three disciplines of wrestling, waterpolo, rugby, and basketball, trading team gear and closing down the bar (more than once) I couldn’t find the time to sit down and write a blog post. Luckily for you, this means I will be trying my best to summarize my 10-day experience in Kazan, Russia at the 2013 Summer Universiade into one succinct post! It’s a tall order but I’m always up to the challenge.
My first and foremost revelation was that travelling to Russia is a long, difficult ordeal. After getting delayed 18 hours leaving Calgary due to an engine malfunction, our entire travel route was messed up. This caused our 8 person wrestling delegation to negotiate an alternate route into Kazan. We arrived 24 hours later than scheduled and for me, without any luggage. This isn’t my first rodeo however, and I had everything I needed to compete handily packed in my carry-on. The delay caused some minor hiccups in our preparation process but was nothing we hadn’t overcome before.
In the sport of freestyle wrestling with the way the international draw is set up now, to win a tournament you have to be the best person on the day. To place well, some people do sneak up and place well depending on how good or lucky their draw was. Unfortunately I had my toughest competitor first match and wasn`t the best person that day. I came back in the repechage and won a bronze medal.
I was so proud to win for my team and my country. It is the culmination of so many years of hard work, discipline, and support from so many people. Without my teammates, training partners, coaches, and support staff there is no way I would be where I am today.
It was the first time I`ve stood on a podium at a major games and to watch my flag being raised was an unforgettable experience. This feeling of intense pride for Canada carried through the rest of the Games. There was a mix of athletes representing Canada... from our Men`s Basketball team who were handpicked from Senior Men`s squad to a rag-tag group of soccer players from the CIS. Even though there was a range of experience levels and long-term goals present, the shared honour of wearing our country`s symbol was widespread.
The Canadian gear was a widely sought after commodity on the trading grounds where all the countries gathered inside the village and I loved sharing stories with the athletes from other countries as I traded for items for my friends and roommates back home.
The eclectic mix of culture and attitudes was ever present in the dining hall which had different stations set up carrying European, Local, Halal, and Asian options. I tried it all (after competing of course) and am a little ashamed to say, I had more free McDonalds over the past week than ever in my life! It seemed to be a post-competition tradition for pretty much every country present.
After our competition was done, our team tried to make it to as many events as possible and my two favourite sports to watch were Rugby and Waterpolo! I have a new level of respect for those athletes.
On the last night of the games, our flight left at 2:30am. This meant we would be cutting it close to make it to the closing ceremonies but this was something I did not want to miss. We arranged to march in and simply march out... being home to the village by 11pm and giving us a reasonable cushion of time to make it to the airport for our flight. It was a little stressful but we packed everything up and put on our Team Canada gear to head to the closing ceremonies.
Marching into the stadium in front of thousands of people was SURREAL. We waited patiently for over two hours, did a little bit of last minute trading outside the stadium, and then had probably the most memorable moment of the entire event. It was truly like putting icing on the cake of the entire Games experience and has truly got me fired up for what is to come....
Erica Wiebe is a Canadian freestyle wrestler and Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Calgary. Her passion for wrestling and writing combine in the words of this blog, sprinkled with a strong opinion on certain matters and a hint of feminist thrown in for good measure.