Elite Amateur Sport Rugby Triathlon Wrestling

Ottawa at the Olympics Day 9: 2016 wrestling champ Erica Wiebe set to hit the mats

Day 9 Recap: Buisa and rugby 7s place 9th, Brown 15th with mixed triathlon relay

By Madalyn Howitt, Martin Cleary & Dan Plouffe

It wasn’t the medal they had hoped for, but Canada’s women’s rugby seven’s team won their placement match Friday against Kenya with a final score of 24-10. The win places them 9th in the final standings.

Pam Buisa shared on social media after the match that the team was disappointed that they didn’t go further but are proud of everything they’ve achieved this year on and off the field.

Pam Buisa. Photo: Steph Rouss

“It’s heartbreaking that we aren’t coming home with a medal, but I can say we will be coming back with insight, with fight, and with pride,” she said in an Instagram post.

“Our team went from dealing with internal investigations to recovering from COVID, to unpacking what it means to represent this nation while learning more about the past and ongoing violence & genocide across these lands to the Indigenous communities, and so much more,” she added. “Through all of this, we pushed through, trained, and kept our heads down.”

Some of those off-the-field challenges Buisa referenced included an internal investigation earlier this year into claims of harassment and bullying within the organization. Tensions surrounding that investigation appeared to come to a head yesterday as Jamie Cudmore, head of Rugby Canada’s national development program, made comments on social media about the women’s team that were deemed “unacceptable and in breach of organization policy” by Rugby Canada. In a swift move, Cudmore was relieved of his duties within the organization – you can read more about the situation in this report from CBC Sports.

With all the challenges Canada’s women’s rugby sevens have faced, the team shared that perhaps their greatest win has been their resilience moving forward.

“Today I can say confidently that our heads are held high. We will never stop fighting [and] speaking truth to systems that shut us out,” said Buisa. “We will continue to stand in solidarity with disenfranchised folks, [and] we were ready to give up our Olympic dream to change the system. Let’s keep making waves, shaking the system and keep leading with love.”


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No flat tires for Brown in triathlon mixed relay

Joanna Brown competing at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games. Photo: Steve Kingsman

The mixed relay triathlon made its Olympic debut yesterday, and it was a much smoother race for Joanna Brown this time around. After battling tough weather conditions, a delayed start and ultimately two flat tires that pulled her out of the women’s triathlon earlier this week, Brown and her teammates had a much easier time completing the inaugural mixed relay event.

Brown’s teammates included Amélie Kretz of Ste-Therese, Que., Matthew Sharpe of Campbell River, B.C. and Alexis Lepage of Gatineau, Que., who replaced Tyler Mislawchuk after he withdrew due to an Achilles injury. The structure of the race required each athlete to complete a mini triathlon before tagging their next teammate. The Canadians couldn’t match the lead nations, and posted a final race time of 1:27:21, placing them 15th out of 16 teams. The teams from Great Britain, USA and France took the gold, silver and bronze, respectively.

The mixed relay triathlon is one of several mixed events that have made their debuts at the Tokyo Games as part of the Olympics’ efforts to promote gender equity in sport. Others include mixed swimming and athletics relays, and mixed doubles table tennis.

Day 10 Preview: Wiebe focusing on performing her best, not defending the gold

2016 Olympic wrestling champion Erica Wiebe. File photo

Erica Wiebe is the reigning Olympic gold medalist from Rio in the 76 kg women’s wrestling event, but don’t expect her to be focusing on that win in Tokyo.

Wiebe does have a very strong chance of contending for a medal, but as High Achievers columnist Martin Cleary learned when he spoke with Wiebe ahead of the Games, however, gold isn’t the goal for the Stittsville native.

“I’m not trying to defend my Olympic gold. The medal is up for grabs,” she said.

Pandemic restrictions made training difficult, but Wiebe learned to carry on in a different way.

“The pandemic was tough early on, mentally, socially and with physical distancing,” she said. “Clearly, you couldn’t train or wrestle. You had to find a way to do it safely. I had to find ways to stay positive.”

For Wiebe, that was buying a road cycling bicycle, which she added to her training routine.

“I learned a new skill,” she explained. “I found a new passion being outdoors. It helped me stabilize mentally.”

That mental (and of course, physical) strength will be on full display in Tokyo as Wiebe represents Canada this weekend on the wrestling mat.

It’s hard to know exactly what time Wiebe will compete. Her event begins tonight at 10 p.m. ET. Her contest with Estonia’s Epp Maee is the sixth match scheduled on Mat B. The quarter-finals follow, while the semis are the last matches scheduled for the session that concludes tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. ET. She needs to win each match to move on to the next. The repechage and medal rounds take place on Day 11.

Wiebe will be the lone Ottawa athlete in action on Day 10.

All Ottawa Olympians’ schedules can be found here.

VIEW FROM HOME: Wiebe’s mother Paula Preston set to celebrate from home

The COVID restrictions of these Tokyo Games unfortunately mean that the friends and family of athletes can’t cheer in person for their loved ones, but the support from home is still clear.

Olympic wrestling champion Erica Wiebe was the surprise presenter of her mother Paula Preston’s Lifetime Achievement Award for a Sports Volunteer at the 2016 Ottawa Sports Awards banquet. Wiebe later collected the OSA’s Female Athlete of the Year Award. File photo

Paula Preston is the mother of wrestler Erica Wiebe and a prominent volunteer in Ottawa’s local sports scene. She and her family are gearing up to watch Wiebe perform this weekend in Tokyo and reflected on how this year’s viewing experience differs from past Olympics.

Preston and her family were able to watch Wiebe bring home the gold in Rio 2016 and had the chance to travel around Brazil in the weeks leading up to the wrestling events.

“The facility in Rio was quite spectacular in terms of sound and we had a fabulous time watching the matches,” said Preston, adding that she found Wiebe’s semi-final match was the most exciting to watch. “That was the match that decided whether she was going to wrestle for a medal.”

In Tokyo of course, the stands will be mostly empty as Wiebe wrestles.

“I think the key thing we’re missing is the Olympic atmosphere,” said Preston. “Everywhere we went in Rio, there was something to do with the Olympics, there were foreign visitors everywhere, there were posters, flyers, banners and facilities throughout the city. It was just part of this huge Olympics festival.”

“Now, it doesn’t really feel like that whole celebration – that’s the thing that is the biggest disconnect for me,” she added. She noted though that the excitement to watch Wiebe perform is still strong.

“It doesn’t mean that we’re still not so happy that [the Olympics] are happening, because at least the athletes get that competitive environment,” she said.

As Wiebe has been a prominent fixture on the wrestling scene for years, her family is used to watching her matches play out on a screen. Preston shared that usually when her daughter has international matches, her family streams them online from home.

“It’s also great because we will scream at the computer and nobody can hear [us],” she laughed.

Preston said her biggest hopes for her daughter are always that she feels good about her own performance.

“I think the best outcome is that she lives up to her potential, that she does the best that she can do. With that, we’re happy with the results,” added Preston, who did get to watch her daughter qualify for the Olympics as a volunteer for the March 2020 qualifier in Ottawa, just as the world was shutting down.

“It is quite amazing the amount of support that’s happening in the wrestling community, [Lots of] positive messages and feedback that we’re seeing on social media. That’s always great to see.”

Other than looking for a nice sushi restaurant in the city’s west end to get a bit of the Japanese experience, Preston said the family’s celebrations for Wiebe are usually pretty low-key.

“We’re not really that much of a celebratory family, but when we came back from Rio, our neighbours who were looking after our house had decorated our front lawn and house. I wouldn’t be surprised if our lawn gets decorated again,” she laughed. “We’ve got great neighbours.”

This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Olympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.


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