By Brendan Shykora
There aren’t many prizes in the wrestling world that Erica Wiebe hasn’t already captured, but one exception is a gold medal at the World Wrestling Championships, which in late October she’ll take her shot to claim.
The 2016 Olympic gold medalist will head to Hungary to compete in what she considers her biggest competition since Rio.
Wiebe says she’s healthy and “stronger than ever” this year. One look at her list of accomplishments in 2018 proves she’s been at the top of her game, while the tale of the tape shows she’s been keeping busy. She won the Kiev Open in February, the Canada Cup and Spanish Grand Prix in July, and the Poland Open in September – all this on top of repeating as Commonwealth Games champion in Gold Coast, Australia, in April.
The Stittsville native’s Commonwealth performance was a dominant showing as she dismantled her opponent, Nigeria’s Blessing Onyebouchi, 14-3 in the 76-kilogram freestyle final. She won the 2014 Commonwealth Games in similar fashion, beating Annabelle Ali of Cameroon 6-2.
Wiebe is hoping her year’s worth of winning experience will translate to success in Hungary. Going to the Poland Open in the midst of a “very heavy phase of training” was a way to test her preparedness.
“The goal was to put myself back into the competition mindset and have one last competition experience prior to worlds,” Wiebe said.
In the weeks before the world championships, Wiebe isn’t thinking about a medal, she’s only concerned with being in peak form.
“The focus is always on the performance and never about the outcome,” Wiebe said. “I want to continue to have a good prep going into these last couple weeks and be able to leave it all on the mats.”
Wiebe’s jam-packed year comes after a lighter wrestling schedule in 2017, a season that was derailed by a broken foot and two broken ribs in the early going. After months of trying to get healthy, she chose to take a break from competitions to refocus her training and come back fresh for 2018 – a decision that’s paid off considering how she’s done so far this season.
Prior to her broken foot, Wiebe was making a name for herself in India’s Pro Wrestling League. One of three foreign athletes included in the league’s second season, she was captain of the Mumbai Maharathi, a team that featured wrestlers from Azerbaijan, Colombia, India and Ukraine.
“It was such an amazing experience bringing some of the best wrestlers from every corner of the world together,” Wiebe said of the competition that lasted five weeks and played in front of crowds of 5,000 or more.
“It was a pretty wild experience from start to finish.”
This year Wiebe has looked to strike a balance between wrestling and gaining work experience, picking up a flexible arrangement as a financial consultant while still training as a high performance athlete. “Having balance outside of sport is incredibly important,” she said.
Wiebe’s success throughout her career comes from having never finished working on her skills as a wrestler, and that attitude hasn’t changed as she prepares for the world championships.
“In wrestling, there are always different combinations, different takedowns, different strengths to build; always somewhere to improve and of course I’m never satisfied,” she said.
If she captures gold at the world championships, Wiebe will become the first Canadian woman to do so since bantamweight Jessica MacDonald in 2012. Justina Di Stasio is the most recent Canadian to grace the podium on the women’s side, earning bronze in the 75-kilogram category at last year’s championships in Paris.
The 2018 World Wrestling Championships are held in Budapest from Oct. 20-28.