By Michael Sun
Erica Wiebe was “happy” after winning gold again at the Commonwealth Games.
The 28-year old came to Australia with the expectation of taking 1st place and did just that with a first round pin of Nigeria’s Blessing Onyebuchi in the 76-kg freestyle wrestling finals.
“I thought the Commonwealth Games was really great to get back in the swing of competing in multi-sport games and dealing with the different expectations as the defending champion and Olympic champion,” Wiebe noted. “I had a great experience overall.”
The Stittsville native’s accomplishment adds to her growing list. She won gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 as well Olympic gold in Rio in 2016.
Despite all of her success, she’s still looking to improve and learn by diversifying her offence on the mat.
“Wrestling’s a really humbling sport in the sense that every single day, I’m challenging myself,” she said. “I’m wrestling people from all different skill levels.”
This includes wrestling high schools boys “all the time”, which she calls a very different challenge.
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“I’m professional in the way that I engage in the sport, but I don’t think of myself as a champion every single day I wake up…” Wiebe added. “I wake up and think about what the next steps are going to be and what I want to accomplish that day.”
Having played a variety of sports growing up, Wiebe started wrestling in Grade 9 at Sacred Heart High School.
She says her motivation is the pursuit of excellence and the thrill of competition – “I also get really excited about putting it on the line and challenging myself,” she adds.
Wiebe says she’s struggled with self-confidence before and seeks positive solutions through mental training. Her go-to method is writing down key positive words and repeating them to herself, she says.
“My biggest challenge has been believing in my own capabilities,” she noted. “That’s something that I can control but it’s sometimes difficult to live and breathe with as I evolve in dealing with those inner demons.”
Wiebe moved to Calgary 10 years ago. She says her confidence has grown with her accomplishments.
“Every experience is unique and it’s cherished,” she said. “Winning Glasgow (2014 Commonwealth Games) is the first time I won gold on a big multi-sport games on a huge stage and it really gave me the strength and the confidence. I knew what it was like going into a major final.”
Her expectations in 2018 were higher than 2014 but she views pressure as fun rather than a burden.
“I just think the pressure’s a privilege and I’ve had a lot of experience in high pressure situations and I find it’s like a fun little test,” she said. “I get to see how I respond and I get to kind of manage that emotional experience and it’s quite the journey.”
Wiebe is heading to Toronto for the Women’s World Team Trials on June 9. She also has her sights set on reclaiming gold at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. However, for her, wrestling is about happiness and emotions as much as accolades.
“It just comes from within as an expression of yourself,” she said of the joy. “Sometimes I think I’m just happy because I struggle a lot in wrestling so it’s like that juxtaposition that I feel I can overcome my challenges or work to overcome challenges or learning a new wrestling move.”
For her, adversity is essential to her happiness and success.
“The process of that journey kind of sucks while you’re going through it but when you get onto the other side, it’s like ‘Ah,’ it’s the most incredible feeling of accomplishment,” she described.
Other Ottawa medallists at the Commonwealth Games were: Joanna Brown (bronze, triathlon), Arianne Bonhomme (bronze, cycling, track cycling), Derek Gee (bronze, track cycling), Tim Nedow (bronze, athletics), Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson (bronze, swimming), Jean Emmanual Pierre-Charles (silver, basketball) and Munis Tutu (silver, basketball).