This past weekend I had the privilege of competing at the Ivan Yarguin International Tournament in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. This event is touted as being the "world's toughest tournament" because of the Russians dominance on the international scene. Instead of only having to beat one Russian enroute to victory, there is always more than a handful in each weight, all of whom who are top calibre competitors.
In international tournaments, we draw numbers at weigh-ins to decide the order of the bracket. I drew number 10 which slotted me in to face the number one russian, Ekaterina Bukina first match! Last time I was competing in Russia at the 2013 Universiade Games in Kazan I also wrestled her first match! That time I lost and ended up winning a bronze medal for Canada. Two years later, we had wrestled a couple more times, each taking a win off the other, but the hard work is really paying off...
I went into the match confident and poised knowing what I needed to execute technically and sticking to my game plan tactically. I forced her to make some errors early on and caught her on a counter-attack, putting her to her back with 15 seconds left in the first period. I sneaked a peek at the clock and knew this would be my chance to put her away. Nothing sounds more blissful than haring the referee's hand smackdown on the match signalling PIN!
First one down... and on to the next.
En route to the finals I wrestled another Russian and a Belarussian, before facing the number two Russian, Alena Starodubsteva in the finals. I have never wrestled this opponent before and I was excited to match up with her for the big finale!! And man, did I ever feel the anticipation. The whole day was very long... with only three matches and huge weight classes, I spent most of the day relaxing in the warm training room just a 2 minute walk from the competition area. I don't like to watch too much wrestling on the day I am competing as I like to stay focused on what I'm there to do... So I listened to music, hung out with the girls, and watched the American doctor drain Michelle's ear on the side of the training mats.... (Yuck!)
Leading into the finals, there were repechage matches and intermissions in between every final with rhythmic gymnastics performances! The finals started at 6pm but I didn't step onto the mats to compete till around 7:45pm. It's an intricate dance knowing just when is the right time to start warming up so that you're ready to go and not too stale.
I stepped onto the mats in front of the big crowd at the Ivan Yarguin Wrestling Palace and this is the reason I train so hard. So that I can step out onto the mats and put it all on the line with zero regrets. I stuck to my same game plan as I had all day, being offensive with my hands and dictating the pace and capitalizing on her mistakes.
In the last minute, I took over the lead and weathered an onslaught of attacks, defending hard and staying in good body position. After six minutes, the referee blew the whistle and I won a close match 2-1. He raised my hand but I was so disappointed!!!
I wanted so much more.
Coach Leigh Vierling was ecstatic in the corner and couldn't help but feel proud of my effort and tenacity but as he said, we are just scratching the surface. I always want more and this is definitely a reminder for me of how I want to feel when I wrestle and what I want to make happen.
I am heading off to Sweden next weekend to compete again at the Klippan Open and am once again stoked for this opportunity to start afresh!! We will be having a training camp beforehand with the Chinese national team and I cannot wait to get my hands on some fresh meat!
I'll keep you updated on that, till then, Erica
I have been absent. I'm sorry... it's not that I wasn't doing anything or that I was brooding in a dark place. I kind of was I suppose. I know writing can indeed be cathartic but I am also conscious of the public domain of the internet and it can be concerning just how personal and intimate typing away your thoughts can become...
This past November I travelled to Brazil with a large crew of the Canadian Women's National team. It was my second time competing in Rio de Janiero. Last time I went it was in November 2012. I had just returned to competing after taking on the role of training partner for the Canadian Olympic Team that summer. I was still so young and the Games had been amazing, awe-inspiring but also scary. I had snuck up onto the Olympic mats one day during weigh-ins and to step up into that arena, there certainly enters some doubt into the mind. You dream as a kid so whole heartedly about that moment and when it is right there, when you can now add all five senses into the mix, new emotions pop up.
Fast Forward two years later, I have returned to Brazil. I have beaten the Olympic champion from London as well as a whole whack of other people. I'm now pretty good at this sport and had been undefeated my entire 2014 season until the World Championships where things just didn't go according to plan. Returning to competition a couple months after that, I was still reeling. I was still unsure of myself. It has been a battle. I think three times will be the charm and I will be ready when I return to rio next...
I wrestled at the Nordhagen Classic on January 3rd in Calgary and then this past weekend in Guelph,ON. What I consider two home-town tournaments to ease me back into things. I am slowly re-gaining the swagger that I think is a requirement of true champions on the mat. If you are a fan of the wrestling or athlete, or fan of sports in general you know.
Today, I will head off to Russia. To fly to the middle of nowhere and compete in the Ivan Yariguin tournament. It is part of our team's quest to seek out physically uncomfortable conditions so that when things become psychologically uncomfortable, we will be at ease. Or at least comfortable with being uncomfortable.
This post is for Dr. Lawrence whom I met briefly on the weekend. Turns out someone other than my immediate family reads these posts... who knew!
It’s taken me a couple weeks to build up the courage to write this post. I was mulling over the many ways to articulate my season and the way it finished. I’ve been searching for a singular reason to peg why it just didn’t come together and the answer to that obvious question, what did I do wrong?
It took a by-chance conversation with an athlete friend of mine to put things in perspective and to become fully prepared to continue forward. It wasn’t even about wrestling, in any way. It wasn’t about anything in particular to be honest except a mish mash of conversation but what I took away from it was what was important and that was about winning. That desire to be the best.
Everyone is so obsessed with winning. I am. It feels great. Additionally, everyone around you is so supportive and happy and engaged. When you lose the only thing that is consistent is that post-tournament e-mail from the mom. Win or lose, I know she’s watching. I can imagine things are a little bit easier when only your mom cares about how you do. It was definitely a new experience having a network of support one that was much more greatly facilitated by today’s social media technology.
Now, this season has come with an unprecedented amount of support from many different echelons of my life and for the first time in my career, I was winning. A lot. And against the best in the world, consistently. I look back on this season and I am extremely proud of my success. I won every individual tournament I entered… Guelph Open, Dave Schultz Memorial in Colorado, Klippan Open in Sweden, Austrian Open, German Grand Prix, University World Championships, and the Commonwealth Games. I prided myself on consistency and pulling it off no matter how intense the pressure was. I won 36 straight matches and then… lost one.
Unfortunately that loss was at the big show, the World Championships against an athlete I had wrestled many times before and already beaten. As one of my coaches adeptly put it, this sport is cruel.
I went back to the drawing board and tried to identify where I went wrong. What happened in my preparations to have this loss. Everything was so perfect. I was so ready.
Of course there are little tweaks to adjust moving forward and there are too many technical areas that I need to improve in as a wrestler and I need to get stronger and the list goes on but I do believe I was ready to stand on top of that podium and it is pretty crushing to not have it happen.
But luckily, this is really only the beginning. I got back on the mats this week and it feels so so so good.
What’s up next for me you ask…. Well I am back to training. Easing into things and I will have the honour of wrestling with Hiroe Suzuki of Japan at the end of October as she will come and train in Calgary for about two weeks then at the end of November I will be heading to Brazil for the Rio Cup!
After that, continuing on a redefined, renewed path of World Domination!!
Personal Season Highlights
Winning Commonwealth Games Gold
Winning the team trophy at the FISU World Championships
Rooming with my best friend and 48kg World Team Member Jasmine Mian all summer
Staying in Touch!
Thank you to all of those who have supported through the wins and the losses. It is a blessing.
Thank-you as well to my sponsors who make this whole athlete lifestyle possible and support my needs as an elite athlete and person… The crew at the Main Dish, KPMG, GenEthix, and KSL Sport.
Where to Next!?
Nov 21-23 Brasil Cup, Rio de Janeiro Brazil
March 20-22, Canadian National Championships, Guelph, Ontario
July 10-16, Pan Am Games, Toronto, Canada
September 7-13, World Championships, Las Vegas, USA
December 4-6, Canadian Olympic Team Trials, Edmonton, Canada
2015 is going to be crazy…. That makes 2016…ridiculous!?
Our time to far in Uzbekistan has been characterized by endless surpassing of expectations. I thought the hotel would be bad, the food inedible, the climate unhospitable, the culture; a shock. Needless to say, it has been an absolute dream so far.
Our days have become a blur of workouts, wrestling, great food, warm sun, refreshing poolside reading, and awesome people. As the tournament nears, for me, there have certainly been hiccups along the way but in the sport of wrestling, you get used to dealing with adversity pretty easily because every trip and every training session, there is going to be something that doesn't go your way but it is in the way that you deal with these challenges that dictate the outcome.
We decided as a team to check out the venue yesterday during the first day of men's competition. Traditionally, Team Canada is a very united front and we operate as a team through and through. We wanted to support the men in their competition and we also wanted to get a feel for the environment we would be wrestling in.
Uzbekistan, as a former USSR country, still maintains a lot of that European feel and there are some beautiful gardens and water fountains in the area we are staying in. One thing the people of Uzbekistan also embrace is the wrestling culture and the venue is packed!!! All in all, the energy is crazy and this definitely feels like the big show. I am so eager to get on the mats and push, push, push during every practice but my coaches keep telling me to trust in the taper and relax and wait for my day of competition. September 11th.
We arrived at the venue yesterday to a sea of sweaty men. We walked into the warm up area which was a small room with two wrestling mats and hundreds of wrestlers which (God I love this sport) come in all shapes, sizes, smells, and colors!! It is truly an experience only a wrestler could understand and also it is a place where we all felt right at home. Initially, there was some worry that we wouldn't be able to get on the mats and get in our light practice but the competition started the mats and cleared a little bit as the competitors shifted off to their various piles of backpacks scattered around the room. (Team USA commandeered a sizable corner section in a very 'Murican fashion and we tucked in right beside them).
We started training around 10am just as a couple other women's teams got on the mats too and we trained right beside the Russian girls and tried not to stare each other down too much...
It has been exciting watching the competition and being right in the action. It brings a realness to the event and it is great to be in there and feel everything a couple days before it's time for me to walk out there alone. Tomorrow is the first day of the women's competition and I am the day after. I have a good feeling we will be celebrating tomorrow after Day One.
To follow the results and livestream check out the new fancy updated United World Wrestling website... www.unitedworldwrestling.org
You can follow me on twitter and also @wrestlingcanada @49NorthWrestling and @jasonbryant (he's an American but he's here and his tweets keep me from boredom in my hotel!)
That's all for now folks, I will be writing a blog after this big hoopla is all over. Hopefully with some good news! Hehe
The packing has began and its officially less than 24 hours until I make the trek to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Now this isn't my first rodeo and typically my packing strategy involves a certain measure of the proverb... if you leave it till the last minute... it only takes a minute. However, Uzbekistan is a whole other beast and this is world championships! I have been scheming for a couple weeks now and making some short shopping trips to pick up what is needed.
Now the food scene there seems to be pretty good according to the reports from some of our team members who arrived early. Typical 'European" breakfast with hardboiled eggs, bread, and fresh vegetables. For anyone who knows me, a favourite travel companion is a childhood friend, Nutella. Now actually as a kid my parents didn't let me have too much Nutella but as an adult I do what I want! I will also be bringing a number of other "fav" items that I'm going to assume aren't sold in Uzbekistan such as some trail mix, chocolate coconut water, small almond milk juice boxes, San Pellegrino Grapefruit Sparking Water, Tea, and tuna. Everything that a high maintenance elite athlete could wish for. I have to be honest and am also bringing some candy to satisfy my sweet tooth! Luckily as far as sports nutrition goes, my needs are taken care of by my new sponsor GenEthix Nutrition. They make some of the best products in the business for athletes and are NSF certified. I will be taking some very handy pre and post exercise as well as some very tasty bars.
Of course as a heavyweight I discuss the food first... but truthfully, as long as I have my passport, singlet, and wrestling boots I know the rest is extra. I'm taking two sets of singlets (just in case I have any wardrobe malfunctions... we all saw that photo of Chris Spring's powerbelly at the Games)and I will be packing my boots and mouth guard tomorrow after our morning technique session before the flight. I'm packing 7 pairs of spandex, 7 t-shirts, 7 sports bras, and copious amounts of socks and undies! It'll be very hot in Tashkent and even in normal temperatures I sweat a lot.
Although Tashkent is around 95% Muslim, apparently the city centre where we are staying is fairly liberal and we should be okay wearing our typically Western-apparel. For me, that means tank tops and short shorts with the occasional summer dress thrown in for good measure.
In the toiletries department, the one thing I can't leave home without is my nasal rinse. Weird I know... It's a real necessity when travelling especially as long a journey as it will be. As far as hair and makeup go I'm pretty low maintenance and wrestling doesn't really allow us to glam it up!
For all those wondering, we are going Calgary - Toronto - Istanbul - Tashkent which is a pretty reasonable itinerary minus the 6 hour layover in Istanbul.
Alas, clearly by packing standards... I think I am ready!
I compete on September 11th at the 75kg class and stay tuned to my blog and twitter for more updates once I arrive.
We returned back from the beauty and excitement of Glasgow and the 2014 Commonwealth Games and were swiftly brought back to the reality that this season is far from over. As I mentioned at the beginning of this summer, we have a triple crown of big events on the schedule... University World Championships, Commonwealth Games, and finally, the big show, the World Championships.
I have made it successfully past the first two events, taking Gold in both and staying on this determined path to victory. But the hard work was far from over and we were reminded of that these past two weeks as a variety of wrestlers from across Canada culminated in a mini-prep centred here in Calgary. We were on the mats and endured a training phase our coaches term as 'loading' which involves lots of high intensity, long duration match-paced wrestling. After going through this process for a number of years preparing for junior world championships, as a training partner at the Olympic Games, and now, prepping for my second senior world championships, I believe the main purpose of this 'phase' is to physically and mentally prepare the body in such a way that nothing that could possibly happen, no opponent that one could possibly face at the 'big show' is worse than the two weeks of hell we just got through.
A highlight of the camp was one Tuesday night when Paul decided to do a little sharkbait drill. This is a drill we sometimes do in wrestling where one person "stays in" and the other wrestlers take turns going in fresh at the person. On Tuesday we did three sets of eight minutes of shark bait with a new fresh person coming in every two minutes. It is meant to push the person in the middle beyond the typical discomfort of a normal wrestling situation and drive them towards something greater. Sometimes towards the end, my goal is to simply stay alive.
Wrestling is a sport of true intimacy where your body is entwined in this intricate dance with another, challenging that other person to their physical, emotional, mental extremes. Yet, it is also a sport of isolation. When you step out onto the mat you are alone. Standing opposite you is another singular opponent whose intentions are to impose their physical dominance over you. It is in those dark corners of the mind you must enter during the last minutes of a sharkbait drill that can define what happens under the spotlight in a number of weeks in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. I get it and I revel in those experiences. You got to be a little crazy to survive in this sport.
I am writing this blog to you on a nice Saturday morning here in Calgary. Less than ten days before I depart for Uzbekistan and another nine after that until I compete. I am a roller coaster of emotions and I will be until I step on the mat. But that is when everything will calm itself because I know I have done the work and I am excited about the opportunity to put it all on the line.
This will be a little Commonwealth Games wrap up blog and Wow... I can't believe it is the closing ceremonies already. The Games experience in Glasgow has certainly flown by especially for a easily excited, social buffalo like myself I easily get caught up in the craziness that is a games environment.
Since competing I have fought hard against FOMO, an acronym for a common games affliction "fear of missing out"! There's just so many things happening it is easy to feel like you're constantly missing out on the action. I found myself constantly running from event to event, dining hall to gym to bed to party (only occasionally) but I have stayed clear of truly experiencing FOMO because of my team around me which make pretty much every moment badass.
Since winning Gold I have truly enjoyed myself in Glasgow and been swept up by the enthusiasm and genuine excitement of the citizens here! I cannot tell you how many Scots have stopped to chat and talk about Canada. I now am certain about 99% of the population of Glasgow has family in Canada... Somewhere. I wish I could chat them all more but often I find myself nodding and smiling because I really can't understand the accent!!! Now Haud Yer Wheest I have been getting better I promise.
There have been numerous highlights of the Games and so I will summarize just a few.. We had a great cheering section on all three days of competition in the form of some good ol 'murican wrasslers from Michigan!! I'm still not quite sure why they were here but there were AWESOME!!! Everyday they made us feel like rockstars. They stole our hearts and my team canada shirt on the last night at the bar... An even trade I believe for the epic support they have given!
Wrestling did really well but all of Team Canada on the track, the field, the mats, and the gym achieve an outstanding level of success and it has been cool rubbing shoulders and making friends with athletes who I have followed for a long time now!
Tonight the Games come to an end but I feel like it is just the beginning for me. In less than 6 weeks we will head over to Tashkent, Uzbekistan to compete with the big dogs at the Senior World Championships. All I can say is Woof. We are ready!!!
One last thing, this trip wouldn't have been what it is without my teammates, the Canadian mission staff, our amazing coaches especially Leigh Vierling and Paul Ragusa, our fearless team leader Alex Davidson, and of course without a doubt the ASTOUNDING support from back home.
This has been my biggest success so far at a major event and I appreciate everything you all have done to support me in this long journey!
The short flight over to Glasgow was actually quite debilitating for most of the team!! When you're used to sneaking in 4-5 hours of sleep on a long haul flight and that flight becomes 5 hours of excitement, catching up with teammates, eating plane food, and exploring the wifi entertainment system (pretty cool Transat) it goes by pretty damn quick!!!
Thus, we arrived into the village groggy but stoked! The accommodations and food are great! Honestly the best thing about it is it seems like such a sustainable village where I can actually see people living once they kick all these athletes out of here!
We have had a couple days to acclimatize and get a feel for everything but things are ramping up very quickly for our competition! I weigh-in tomorrow and then compete on Tuesday July 29th!!
Thus far I have only has one semi-celebrity sighting in the village in the form of Sally Pearson the 100m hurdles champion from Australia. I tried to spark a convo but she didn't seem to chatty... Weird.
The village has been pretty quiet but fun. The coolest part of the Games has been the intergration of the para & non-para events side by side which is how I think it should always be!
More updates as I find out my draw so check twitter and my athlete face book page where I have been posting photos and mostly silliness.
Last week I had the honour of representing Canada and my university at the World University Championships! It was set in the beautiful university town of Pecs, Hungary. (It's pronounced PE-ch for those less familiar with the Hungarian language..: I was laughed at numerous times for trying to simply say it like pecs (of the chest muscle variety).
Anyhow, it was a great event capped off by a haul of six medals for Team Canada and some hard fought wins. We had four golds, a silver, and a bronze. I was really happy with my individual performance but to be honest, there is nothing like winning a team trophy!!
It says a lot about the culture of excellence that we are trying to establish within the women's team from top to bottom!
Along the way to my individual gold I beat Russia, Ukraine, and then Estonia in the finals!
I would say the MVP for the tournament goes to Danielle Lappage who wrestled a tough Russian first off (whom she lost too in Sweden a couple months ago) and then Japan in the semis and USA in the finals.
Jasmine Mian also proved her strength and tenacity pulling off close wins all the way through. She was able to win gold despite not wrestling her best and I'm so excited for what's to come next because I know what this little power house is capable of.
Me and Doh Beh (69kg Dori Yeats) were just making it happen all day at 69kg & 75kg. She finished all her matches in the first round defining what #heavyweightstyle is all about.
The other medals were won by the comeback queen Celeste Constant-Rodriguez who was on the junior national team with me and Dan waay back in 2008 and is now back to wrestling domination! And then Sam Stewart from New Brunswick won bronze!
This event is designed for university athletes and all week we were joking about how their should be an academic component to the competition. I think team canada would clean up in that too! We have numerous Masters students on our roster which shows our commitment to excellence on and off the mats!
Once again, I'm so proud of my team.
This event marks the first of the Triple Crown for this summer! Next up is Commonweath Games and after that, World Championships!
We fly out for Comm Games on July 24th and I am SO excited to be competing in this massive multi-sport Games! Bring it on Glasgow!
I am so lucky that since I began representing Canada at an international level oh say, eight years ago my summers have been increasingly dominated by travel to exotic locations, amazing memories with great teammates & coaches, and of course, (more so lately) kicking ass!
My first summer on the Junior World Team I remember hustling across town making two jobs, waking up at the crack of dawn for morning work-outs and practice at night. I worked maintenance on campus and served at Earl's in the evenings and on weekends. The constant blur of my summer was dictated by footwear, going from runners to steel-toed boots to heels and back but of course, I was happiest with my wrestling boots wherever in the world they took me.
Now six years later my summer has started the same way, with an amazing training camp and competition in Germany & Austria which has set the tone for the months ahead. My summer competition schedule is tightly-packed with major events and for one of the first times in my life I will be putting aside all other major commitments and focusing 100% on wrestling. In the past while competing, I have attended university full-time, or worked and most often juggled all three. This summer I have decided to cool things off a little and give myself the time to really dedicate myself to becoming the best wrestler I can be. The new FILA rankings have me down at #2 in the world and I feel I have the ability to turn some more heads at the big competitions down the line.
Over the next three months I will have three major competitions. First up is the University World Championships in Pecs, Hungary. Then at the end of July I will be competing at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. Finally my 'summer' wraps up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan at the Senior World Championships.
As far as a day-to-day schedule goes, I have trimmed down many of my 'hard' commitments but love keeping busy volunteering at various events, reading & blogging and connecting with old & new friends. Me & my partner recently moved into a new house and we are in full-swing of reno's which is also adding a little something-something to the days.
All in all, it's going to be a great summer and I'm so excited to step out onto the mats and represent this great country!!!
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.