Canada's Erica Wiebe, left, celebrates after defeating Nigeria's Blessing Onyebuchi, right on the ground, to win Gold medal in women's FS 76Kg wrestling at the Commonwealth Games on Gold Coast, Australia, Thursday, April 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup

Canada’s Olympic champion wrestler Erica Wiebe eyes return to competition

Canada’s Olympic champion wrestler Erica Wiebe eyes return to competition

Olympic champion wrestler Erica Wiebe feels it’s time to get back on the competition mat.

She and teammate Amar Dhesi of Surrey, B.C., intend to represent Canada at a December World Cup in Belgrade, Serbia, unless the COVID-19 virus derails those plans.

It’s been almost nine months since the two Canadians competed in the Pan American Olympic qualification tournament in Ottawa.

Wrestling in front of zero fans in mid-March, they punched their tickets to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Less than two weeks later, the Summer Olympics were postponed until 2021.

Wiebe is ready to navigate the pandemic pitfalls and complications of international travel to reboot her competitive journey to Tokyo.

“It’s been really crazy because in my 10 years on the Canadian national team, I’ve never not competed for this long,” said the 31-year-old from Stittsville, Ont.

“I’m wrestling and training better than I ever have. I’ve just taken so much time to develop, to really dig into some technical and tactical skills. The training volumes are so different compared to when we’re traveling to Europe every month.

“When I think about competing in Serbia in three weeks, it’s really exciting to just see where I’m at, to experience a competitive environment and go through that process.”

The reigning Olympic champion in the 75-kilogram class trains in Calgary.

Dhesi, a 25-year-old who wrestles in the men’s heavyweight division, is currently training at the University of Ohio.

“All this training doesn’t doesn’t actually prepare for the real thing on the mat,” Dhesi told The Canadian Press from Columbus.

“I need to get in front of a real referee and stand beside a real opponent, blow the whistle and see what happens. I’m just grateful Canada is letting us go.”

The tournament Dec. 12-18 in Serbia’s capital city was initially the world championship. With some countries unable or unwilling to attend, it was downgraded to a World Cup.

Both Wiebe and Dhesi say there will be enough high-calibre opponents to warrant travelling there.

Wrestling Canada wrestled with risk and reward in deciding the World Cup was an option for the Canadian team. Some athletes chose not to go.

“We’ve had athletes that training wise are probably ready to go and compete in Serbia, but don’t feel comfortable doing so,” high-performance director Lúcás Ó’Ceallacháin said.

“We haven’t forced anybody to do that. We have some athletes that still live at home, that have elderly relatives that live with them that will be considered high risk.”

Canada’s six-person contingent will consist of Ó’Ceallacháin, Wiebe, Dhesi, their coaches and an athletic therapist.

Wrestling Canada used the return-to-competition assessment tool developed by Own The Podium and the Canadian Olympic Committee, as well as consulting medical experts, to determine how safe it was for Canadian athletes to compete in Belgrade.

“They are precious cargo,” Ó’Ceallacháin said. “We take it very seriously how we’re going to take care of them.

“Serbia has been very good at providing extensive documentation in terms of what their plans are and what they’re going to do. We feel they’re doing everything they possibly can.

“We’re full of trepidation, anxiety, but we’re also excited to get back at it.”

Ó’Ceallacháin says he also sought advice from Canada’s winter-sport teams already competing in Europe, as well as the Canadian judo team that travelled to Guadalajara, Mexico, and Budapest, Hungary for competition in recent weeks.

Wiebe intends to take part in Alberta’s rapid-testing pilot program for international travellers at the Calgary airport upon return.

That could shorten her quarantine from the required 14 days if Wiebe tests negative.

Competing in Belgrade means she won’t spend the holidays with her family in Ontario.

“It’s a really big sacrifice that’s really important for me right now,” Wiebe said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

Wrestling

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Town of Ponoka and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) have ratified a new agreement, averting a strike. (File photo from Facebook)
Alberta gov’t ‘using pandemic as shield to lay off workers,’ says AUPE

The Government of Alberta’s “attacks on workers” is continuing with a new… Continue reading

Rocky Mountain House RCMP, EMS, Search and Rescue, STARS air ambulance and Alstrom Helicopters worked together to rescue a fallen ice climber Friday. (Photo contributed by Rocky Mountain House RCMP)
Rocky Mountain House RCMP help rescue fallen ice climber

Rocky Mountain RCMP helped assist a fallen ice climber Friday afternoon. At… Continue reading

Students Association of Red Deer College president Brittany Lausen says she’s pleased the college is offering students a choice to attend class in-person or remotely. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Red Deer College winter term enrolment dips

Enrolment down about six per cent but mix of online and in-person instruction is going over well

Brett Salomons, of Salomons Commercial, and Mark Jones, CEO of the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre, in the CACAC's new temporary home. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre’s One Day Challenge returns

Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre has announced its One Day Challenge is… Continue reading

Dwayne Buckle, 40 of Red Deer finished a 1,638-kilometre walk, in honour of his family. The 12-week, 82 day-journey wrapped up in Port Hardy, B.C. on Monday. Facebook photo
Red Deer man completes 1,638 km hike for cancer research

Dwayne Buckle, a Red Deer firefighter returned home Friday after his 12-week journey

A Suncor logo is shown at the company's annual meeting in Calgary, Thursday, May 2, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Body of worker whose bulldozer fell through ice on inactive tailings pond recovered

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Oilpatch giant Suncor says the body of a… Continue reading

A restaurant manager in Orlando used a sign to secretly ask an 11-year-old boy if he needs help from his family after they were spotted withholding food from him. (Photo courtesy Orlando Police Department)
WATCH: Restaurant manager uses secret note to ‘rescue’ child, says Orlando Police

The manager of an Orlando restaurant is receiving praise from police after… Continue reading

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will cripple struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

VICTORIA — A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Quebec and Ontario, the two provinces hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic,… Continue reading

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police "E" Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on Friday April 13, 2018. A young snowshoer who set out alone on a rugged mountain trail on Vancouver's north shore Thursday has died. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Snowshoer dies after overnight search on Vancouver-area mountain: RCMP

SQUAMISH, B.C. — A snowshoer who set out alone on a rugged… Continue reading

nunavut
‘It was joyous:’ Sun returns to some Nunavut communities for first time in weeks

IQALUIT — A sliver of orange rose over Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, earlier… Continue reading

People take photos through the extensive security surrounding the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, ahead of the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Susan Walsh
Less pomp, very different circumstances as D.C. prepares to inaugurate Biden, Harris

WASHINGTON — Some pomp. Very different circumstances. Inauguration day is supposed to… Continue reading

Winnipeg Jets' Nathan Beaulieu (88) and Nikolaj Ehlers (27) defend against Jansen Harkins (12) during scrimmage at their NHL training camp practice in Winnipeg, Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Winnipeg Jets cancel practice due to possible COVID-19 exposure

WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Jets have cancelled their practice today due to… Continue reading

Most Read