This past weekend I coached the Alberta Winter Games Zone 3 (Calgary) wrestling team! I could not think of a better send off to get my pumped for my trip out to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games… It was an amazing weekend that truly inspired me and these young athletes to ‘reach for their peak’ (conveniently that was the AWG’s official motto).
In many ways, the two weekends were polar opposites of one another. Over in Sochi, The Cayman Islands walked into the opening ceremonies with sandals and shorts …while we froze our extremities outside in the -40 degree weather! The Opening Ceremonies was a truly remarkable event held ‘Block Party’ style on Banff Ave. We cheered loudly for our zone and were greeted by past Olympians and encouraged on in a video tribute by former AWG athletes who are in Sochi competing! My highlight was the performance of one of my favorite Calgary-based artists, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald who really can do no wrong.
We huddled back to our luxurious accommodations and got some shut eye before the big weekend. Unlike the controversial #Sochiproblems that have been rampant, our accommodations were ready and welcoming, it wasn’t 4-star but sleeping on mats in a kindergarten classroom at the Banff Elementary School with 15 pre-teen girls was entertaining if nothing else.
The competition was held over two days. The team competition was a dual meet format with teams going head to head earning points for a cumulative score. My favourite dual of the weekend was against Cochrane who are our zone neighbours, familiar opponents and training partners. There was an electrifying intensity between the two teams and throughout the dual and we fired it up … After 18 matches, it came down to our last heavy-weight to pull up the big win, and that he did! I have never been more proud of my team for putting in such a massive team effort but also for winning with poise and dignity. We went on to win Team Gold the next day and later that afternoon we had an individual competition and once again wrestled like champions. I was impressed with the technical skills of these athletes but more so their passion and maturity on the mat. It was an honour being a part of such a great group.
The atmosphere of these Games was no different than my past Games experiences (as a training partner at the London 2012 Olympics, and as a bronze medalist at the 2013 FISU Games). There is something so powerful when you bring together such a large array of people. There is a special magic in the air and that is what truly makes me believe in the power of sport.
I returned home late on Sunday and my focus immediately shifted to my own preparations to depart for Sochi this upcoming Friday. Amid the swirls of controversy, corruption, and human rights abuses, there is an Olympic movement that transcends it all. At the intersections of politics, economics and sport, there are the dreams of athletes from around the world on the line. As an
athlete who shares those dreams and proud fan, I firmly believe in the power of sport to transcend social, political, economic boundaries and provide an arena to celebrate and embrace those differences. Oh yah and …. Go Canada Go!
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.