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.
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.