I must admit I was excited tonight heading to the stadium to compete in the final matches on Day one of the wrestling competition. It was nice to know that the Canadian Media would be there to cover our sport and our girls. Many of the mission staff and other Canadian team members also came to watch the matches. I knew on paper it would be possible to win all three bouts tonight, and as former and current World medalists our girls would be concidered favorites by many. I also told them I was glad each of them had a tough match ahead of themselves... an opportunity to test themselves and execute against some game competitors.
What a fun session it was tonight, if you have not seen the matches goto cbc.ca! They are all on a video stream for the watching. In many ways it was not the best our girls have ever wrestled, but that is in part to the heart and fighting spirit of the athletes we faced. At 48kg I had anticipated a fairly passive and tactical approach by the Indian Wrestler in facing an experienced and dynamic wrestler like Carol. Carol has wrestled her before and really controlled the match. BUT those matches did not occur in India in front of a very excited Indian crowd! I was surprized when she actually attacked first and took Carol down to her back! Down late into the round (in both rounds) Carol showed the composure and grit of a true champion. With explosive three point attacks to win in come from behind dramatic fashion! Im not gonna lie, sometimes it great to be a coach! Not only do I get the best seat in the house for the final matches at the Commonwealth games, but I get to see our wrestlers show how special they really are! You always tell your athletes to keep wrestling until that last whistle blows, and sometimes great things happen when they do!
Justine faced similar adversity in her match... The Nigerian girl came out very physically and took the first round scoring off of justines attack. Many athletes would have freezed up, or paniced, but again Justine showed why our team is so highly regarded. She refocussed and went back on the attack in the second round. She then closed out the match with another mentally tough third round. Both wrestlers were working very hard and are very physical. It is nice to see Justine out gun such a solid athlete! In the end of the match she demonstrated solid offense to scoring, defense to scoring, and ground wrestling to scoring. What more can a coach asked for. She pushed each opportunity and eventually found a way to capitalize and win!
Our final match was Ohenewa vs the Cameroon athlete which again ended up being a bit of a war of wills. In the first round ohenewa found a way to take over a solid single leg attack in the dying seconds of the round, she scored with mere seconds left with a body lock. In the second round the Cameroon athlete answered back catching Akuffo on her back off of a front head and arm attempt. It looked grim for a few seconds but Ohenewa managed to eventually work her way out of a very sticky position and live to wrestle a little more. The third round held a lot of solid hand fighting and motion but neither athlete could secure a real attack position. So it came down to a clinch for the win at the end of the day. Ohenewa got the offense position and made no mistake!
THREE TIMES, the Canadian anthem played tonight at the wrestling venue. And I got to see our girls smile so bright up ontop of the podium for Canada.
In many ways it seemed like the chips were down for our girls ... Carol was loosing late, Justine lost the first round, Ohenewa the second round and was on her back! The adversity made it much sweeter, and I hope reaffirmed the confidence they have all worked so hard to build up.
Tomorrow we return to the mats at 51kg with Jessie, 59kg with Tonya, and 67kg with Megan. Two of the three have drawn very tough opponents right off the bat, possibly athletes you would expect to meet in the finals. If they learned anything today it is that no matter what, our team can find a way if you stay after it. I am a little exhausted right now and need to recharge from the emotional night.
Congratulations to our team tonight, going three for three was really nice. They are stars for an evening! Tomorrow we start the journey all over again! Also congratulations to all who have supported our team (family, friends, training partners) we do feel you behind us... even though we may be on the otherside of the globe!
Good night for now...