Erica Wiebe feels like an Olympic veteran, having attended the last two Games, but readily admits Rio 2016 will have a completely different feel.
“But to go to compete, it’s so different.”
While Wiebe served only in a supporting role in the last Summer Olympics, she made sure to take a moment for herself.
“In between one of the sessions, when we were in the Olympic venue, I totally snuck out onto the mats and just closed my eyes and felt what it felt like. And it felt the exact same as any wrestling mat and so I was like, ‘OK, I can do this’,” Wiebe said.
And now she will do it – as part of a women’s wrestling team that has returned with at least one medal from every Games since women’s wrestling was included in the Olympics in 2004.
Tonya Verbeek won three medals in the women’s 55-kilogram weight class, while Calgary’s Carol Huynh won gold in 2008, and bronze in 2012.
“To be part of that team, it’s a legacy, and we’re just going to try and uphold that,” Wiebe said.
“For some people in different sports, making the team is so exciting. But when you make the women’s wrestling team, you make it, and you’re excited. But there’s an expectation now that you can perform and we know that we can,” Olympian Jasmine Mian said.
Mian may understand that better than anyone. She’ll compete in Rio in the same weight class as the great Huynh (48 kg).
“Carol and Tonya were very much much trailblazers for the sport of women’s wrestling at the Olympic level,” Mian said. “That kind of showed us – the next generation of girls – that ‘OK, we can go to the Olympics and we can win,’ because it’s been done before.”
Both Verbeek and Huynh spent significant time in Calgary, training on the mats at the University of Calgary.
It’s one of the big reasons why Wiebe and Mian moved from their hometown in Ontario to Alberta to prepare for their Olympic debuts.
“I can talk to Carol every single day and ask her the questions I have leading into the Games,” said Mian. “It’s really interesting to hear her perspective…it’s been so valuable and it gives me a lot of pride to be part of this team.”
Wiebe moved to Calgary eight years ago from Stittsville, Ont. to work under national women’s head coach Leigh Vierling.
Both women would love to be the next Canadian wrestlers to bring back medals to their adopted hometown next month.
Watch below: Brendan Parker profiled another Calgary athlete, Ben Saxton, who is heading to Rio (Jan. 2016)