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Ottawa at the Olympics Day 10: Wiebe rally falls short in opening Olympic wrestling match

Erica Wiebe. File photo

By Kieran Heffernan, Martin Cleary, Madalyn Howitt & Charlie Pinkerton

Erica Wiebe won’t be repeating her 2016 gold medal win after a 5-4 loss in the 76-kilogram wresting tournament’s qualifying round (but that wasn’t her goal anyhow).

“It’s about having the best performances that day. That’s what I focus on,” she told the Sports Pages early in July.

Her competitor, Estonia’s Epp Mäe, had the same perspective. She told the CBC, “This is a new competition. The previous result doesn’t matter.”

After falling behind three points to Mäe in the first period, Wiebe tried to rally for a comeback but couldn’t quite make it far enough.

This wasn’t the first time Wiebe has fallen to Mäe. She lost to her at the 2019 world championships in the quarterfinals, and Mäe then went on to win bronze. That loss meant the Wiebe had to qualify for these Olympics through a 2020 Pan American Olympic qualifier in mid-March 2020, which she won.

There was a brief moment of hope that Wiebe still had a chance at bronze, but in order for that to happen, Mäe had to win her next two matches. Unfortunately, she lost in the quarterfinals.

Despite the rough road to the Games, facing injuries and difficult COVID training setups (including sometimes being limited to shadow-wrestling, which is basically wrestling with an imaginary opponent), Wiebe told the CBC she was proud to be competing and could feel the support of Canada behind her.

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You can read more coverage of the match from the Toronto Star and the CBC.

Day 11 Preview: Speedskater Vincent De Haître serves as engine for team pursuit cycling squad

Cumberland’s Vincent De Haître and Osgoode’s Derek Gee kick off their Games early this morning in the team pursuit cycling competition. There won’t be any teams eliminated in this qualifying round, but the results will determine the matchups for the first round which takes place on August 3.

High Achievers columnist Martin Cleary spoke to De Haître, who is now officially a dual-sport Olympian, ahead of the Olympics.

De Haître is Canada’s 1,000-metre man. No other Canadian has pedalled a bicycle or travelled in speed-skates as fast over that atypical distance.

A three-time Canadian record-holder in track cycling’s Kilo Time Trial, De Haître was the first national-team cyclist to go under one minute at altitude, when he blazed the Cochabamba, Bolivia, track in 2019 in 58.951 seconds.

He also holds the sea-level national kilo record, which he set almost six months later at the 2020 world track cycling championships in Berlin with a clocking of 1:00.018.

Vincent De Haître with his 2017 speedskating prizes. File photo

Take De Haître off the slick, aerodynamic bike and put him into a pair of long-track speed-skates and he’s almost as fast. He set the men’s 1,000-metre Canadian record in February 2017, at 1:06.72.

Besides being a record-holder, De Haître also has been an accomplished athlete over a season of 1,000-metre races. In his last two World Cup speedskating seasons (2016-17 and 2017-18), he was among the best.

In 2016-17, he was second on the World Cup 1,000-metre list, scoring one 1st and a 2nd in the season finale as well as a silver medal at the world championships. In 2017-18, three top-5 results put him 7th overall.

On the cycling track, he placed 4th in the One-Kilometre Time Trial at the 2020 world championships, just over half a second (0.523) from the gold medal.

It’s no wonder De Haître will become the 13th Canadian athlete to experience both a Winter and a Summer Olympics.

De Haître, who raced over 1,000 and 1,500 metres as a speed skater at the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics, has spent the past three years alternating his training with the Canadian track cycling and speed skating teams.

Training for two different sports throughout the year has been “immensely challenging” for De Haître. By racing in Tokyo and qualifying for Canada’s 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic team, he’d set a record of another sort.

From the end of the Tokyo Summer Olympics until the Beijing Winter Games, there’s only a 180-day turnaround. If De Haître makes the speedskating team, it will be the fastest a Canadian has gone from one Games to the next.

De Haître will be the engine on the Canadian men’s Team Pursuit squad as the Kilo Time Trial isn’t part of the Olympic track cycling program in Tokyo. In speedskating, he’s a cross of a sprinter and middle-distance racer. But in track cycling, he hasn’t found the Olympic race that makes him feel comfortable just yet.

“There’s no real race for me,” said De Haître, who only gets to race the kilo at world championships and other international competitions. “There’s nothing for me in (Olympic) cycling. But I know I can ride and I’m good at it.”

At the moment, De Haître is very good at Team Pursuit — he in Gee’s event — in which four riders start a 4,000-metre race against the clock around a velodrome track and only three riders must finish to lock in a time.

De Haître has a specific role. He takes the speed squad out fast and holds on as long as he can. You can expect him to pull the Canadian riders through the opening 1,000 metres in a minute flat. That may be his Olympic kilo.

Once De Haître begins to power down about halfway through, he’ll go to the back of the cycling conga line or pull off into the infield. Then Gee, the team’s endurance racer, will take over with Michael Foley and Jay Lamoureux.

The squad of Gee, Lamoureux, De Haître and Foley broke the Canadian record for the sport at the 2019 Pan American Championships in Bolivia with an altitude ride of 3:49.974.

Cumberland’s Vincent De Haître and Osgoode’s Derek Gee kick off their Games early this morning in the team pursuit cycling competition. There won’t be any teams eliminated in this qualifying round, but the results will determine the matchups for the first round which takes place on August 3.

Other Ottawa athletes in action on Day 11 are:

The women’s team pursuit competition gets started early Monday as well. Ariane Bonhomme is listed as a substitute for the opening qualifying round, but may race later on. The qualifier works the same as for the men; no eliminations, but the results determine who the team will race in the first round.

After netting a thrilling game-winning penalty kick to send the women’s soccer team to the Olympic semifinals, Vanessa Gilles and the Canadian squad will face Team USA on Monday. The match, which the Americans qualified for by winning their quarterfinal against the Netherlands also in penalty kicks, will be a rematch of the semifinals at the 2012 London Olympics. USA beat Canada 4-3 in that game in extra time.

Speaking to Le Droit ahead of Canada’s next game, Gilles reaffirmed what she told the Sports Pages before the Games: “I came here for the gold medal.”

“Now we find ourselves in the position we wanted before the Games,” Gilles said. “We’ll be ready. We’ll be motivated.”

All Ottawa Olympians’ schedules can be found here.

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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