Friday, December 27, 2013

Wrestling Canada's Outstanding People and Accomplishments in 2013

WRESTING CANADA year in review 2013: (by Coach Vierling)

Watching sport highlight shows at this time of year, we are reminded of the highlights, lowlights and top stories from 2013.
I made myself a promise at the end of the London Olympic Games in 2012… 
I would do a much better job of helping to tell Wrestling Canada's stories in 2013! I would like to draw attention to those people who put forth gallant efforts on and off of the mat, and show my true appreciation of those whom really have helped me, my program and our sport to excel on the World Stage! 
I know I have mentioned a few of these points in previous posts, but for those reading for the first time I wanted to do a true recap of this amazing year!

So if you will indulge me I would like to provide my 2013 Wrestling Canada Year in Review.

Our Top Story of 2013 - SAVING OLYMPIC WRESTLING (Wrestlings removal and reinstatement from the Olympic Program by the IOC).

-My friend Craig Sesker from the USA has co-authored a book about this whole process. A fascinating read, yet it tells the story from a very American perspective. 
At times Canada receives some credit for its involvement in the "Save Olympic Wrestling Movement" or the
"Keep" or "Preserve Olympic Wrestling Movement." Others insisted that the word "Save" bothered them because it sounded too desperate, yet the situation could not have been more desperate in my opinion!
Its no surprise that newsmakers around the Worlds picked (and stuck) to the story of how USA, Russia, and Iran classic cultural rivals came together to unite and save the sport of Olympic Wrestling. I by no means want to minimize their involvement and the power of their unity in changing one of the Worlds most elite Board of Directors, the IOC. 
Taking a closer (Canadian) look at the whole story you can see that Wrestling Canada was not a sideline player in this whole fight. We stepped up early and often in the fight to Save Olympic Wrestling and I would like to take time now to acknowledge many of our true sport heroes who went above and beyond to do battle for this cause!

Canada's Committee to "Save Olympic Wrestling": Carol Huynh (Chairperson), Don Ryan (Wrestling Canada President), Tamara Medwidsky (Canadian Wrestling Executive Director), Guy Napert-Frenette (Wrestling Canada Media Consultant), Bill Hogarth (2004, 2008 Olympic Team Leader), and Myself (National Women's Coach). Members of our group went to great strides to meet with prominent people who we thought could help impact and influence the final decision on our sport. We contacted and met with Canada's IOC members, Dick Pound and Becky Scott, also the Head of the Canadian Olympic Committee Marcel Abut, and many many more. We wanted to educate and make a strong case for our sports continued success as a member of Canada's Olympic Program. Wrestling was and is a positive member of Canada's Olympic Teams and is a wonderful sport for athletes regardless of gender and size! We are indeed a pillar in Canada's Summer Olympic program having been in an Olympic Gold medal final (winning a gold or silver medal) in the last 6 Olympics in a row (only rowing and wrestling have done this)! We also are one of the very few multi medal sports in the summer games along with Canoe-Kayak, Diving, and Rowing in the last two Olympic games! We take great pride in our Olympic history, and our contribution to Canada's Olympic culture. 

I can tell you it was a very dark day, the day the IOC announced Wrestlings removal from the Core of the Olympic program starting in 2020. I am not unaccustomed to dealing with media requests but the amount of requests for interviews that day topped any day in my career by far, including Carols Huynh's Olympic Gold Medal day. I remember seeing Carol on the evening news reacting to the IOC Executive recommendation and being very impressed with how she carried herself in front of the media given the emotion of the moment. Literally days later we sat down for a coffee to discuss the whole mess and at that time we discussed trying to utilize her in being a great spokes person for our Sport in Canada! One of the most visibly beloved athletes following the 2008 Olympics, I was positive that she could charm yet challenge media, and build support for our reinstatement. Carol made a commitment to do anything she could to fight for this cause, little did she know how crucial and involved she would ultimately become! As part of Fila's final presentation team to the IOC (along with Daniel Igali)! Recently Carol was named chairperson of Fila's first ever athletes commission, a testament to the wrestling worlds appreciation of the extensive work she did in "Saving" our sport!  
I would would definitely call Carol Huynh my Canadian Wrestling Person of the Year for 2013, given everything that happened this past year!

BATTLE AT THE FALLS (my favourite event of 2013) 
-As part of our battle to raise awareness and "save our sport" we held an important Dual Meet event as part of Fila's World Wrestling month in May. We called in some favours from our long term friends and allies in the USA and extended the invitation to a number of Top women's teams around the world to join us at Niagara Falls to showcase Women's Olympic Wrestling to the world. A number of incredible (primarily Men's) events had happened around the World, but this was one area that I thought Canada could take the lead and truly promote the Women's side of the Olympic program! 
The event turned out to be a tremendous showcase indeed! Thank you to the tough teams from the United States and Ukraine (2013 European Champions) who attended. Our Canadian women stepped up onto the mats in Niagara with such tremendous purpose and pride. It was the competition highlight of this past season for me (among many other great competitions highlights)! At the event there was such a close cohesion and camaraderie among the teams and those involved, it left memories that I will truly never forget 
A few people really stepped up to make this happen. Marty Calder, Tonya Verbeek, Shawn Whitley, and the entire Brock wrestling club helped us to run a truly first class event (and training camp after)! The USA was very instrumental in supporting our event and not only sent an amazing team, but some incredible support people in Craig Seeker, Richard Immel, and even Dan Gable! At this event one of Wrestling Canada's newest stars was emerging. Not on the wrestling mat, but covering it… Andrew Ross attended to cover the event with his assistant Joe. For those of you who don't know Andy has created his own website to promote wrestling from a Canadian viewpoint. Called '49 North Wrestling" it has become a huge hit in Canada and Worldwide. Unlike his US counterparts covering the event as Staff with USA wrestling, Andy was truly a volunteer for Canada and an amazing promoter of the oldest and greatest sport. 2013 has seen his involvement grow in leaps and bounds. It would be my sincere hope that in the future "Wrestling" can lock Andy down as a permanent partner and leader in our Wrestling Canada program. His tireless amount of promotion, webcasting, creating highlight videos, and uploading content to his website is truly to be applauded!
I would definitely call Andy Ross my Wrestling Canada Outstanding Contributor for 2013. 
Along with many other strong contributors year in and year out like Josip Mrkoic, Christine Nordhagen, Lee MacKay, and others. I believe our future as a sport is very bright moving forward!

Getting past the Save Olympic Wrestling saga, I would also like to acknowledge some other amazing people and developments in 2013!

New Stars Emerge in 2013! (Three Junior World Medalists)
It has been 19 years since Canada won a medal at the Junior World Championships on the Men's side! Yet in 2013 Sunny Dhinsa did exactly that, defeating his Russian opponent by fall in the Bronze medal match! On the women's side an equally impressive achievement! it has been twelve years since Canada had two athletes in the finals at the Junior Women's World Championships! Dori Yeats was victorious despite a number of challenges this past year and becomes Canada's historic first 2x Junior World Champion! Braxton Papadopoulos reached the final in her rookie year as a Junior, settling for a silver medal in 2013! All three of these athletes demonstrated tremendous heart and desire enrolee to their podium performances. These three are definitely people to watch  in the years to come!

Two more medals for our Women at the Senior Worlds in 2013!
Congratulations to Stacie Anaka (Silver) and Jessie MacDonald (Bronze) for their tremendous accomplishments at this years Worlds! For Jessica it was her third straight trip to the podium at the Senior World Championships, which is no small accomplishment. For Stacie Anaka it was an amazing day that caped of a year of incredible highs and lows. Both of these two athletes demonstrated incredible desire at this years worlds and battled through adversity to reach the podium! They are a testament to Wrestling Canada and the great teammates and support staff they have surrounded themselves with who definitely share in these successes!

New Leadership for Wrestling Canada in 2013!
I am extremely excited at the hiring of both Gia Siasouri and Tonya Verbeek in 2013! Gia will lead our men's program toward the 2016 Olympic games while Tonya will develop a gold medal pathway for both men and women that we know will lead to future success as our Talent identification Coach. The two bring forth a wealth of international success (10 Olympic and World Medals) and passion to the program. As leaders and mentors our current and future generations will have access to two of the VERY best wrestling minds in our sport! I am very excited and proud to work closely with them in the years to come leading to 2016! We also recently hired Alex Davidson as our new High performance manager at Wrestling Canada. Alex brings forth a strong background in high performance sport and experience as an elite level athlete, coach, and administrator! Along with Gia and Tonya, I believe our potential as an organization and a sport has improved with the addition of Alex to our great team!

2013 was a year of change! 
Over the past 12 months not only did we deal with our battle to save our sport, but we also had uncountable changes as an organization! I would sincerely like to thank Tamara Medwidsky our amazing Executive Director for keeping our ship not only afloat during this challenging year but keeping it moving in the right direction the entire time! Your incredible work ethic, dedication, and passion for our organization and our people does not go unnoticed! 
In the last year Wrestling Canada as already mentioned had a huge change in leadership and staffing. Clint Kingsbury departed as Development Development Manager, Stephanie Buchan departed as our High Performance Manager, and our Men's program was lacking a hired leader. I know first hand that Wrestling Canada is often compared unfavourably to our good friends at USA Wrestling. We are criticized at times because our website is not up to date, and our programs are nowhere as comprehensive and professional as the USA's. USA wresting literally has dozens of staff members while Canadian Wrestling currently has 6 full-time staff (three of which were only hired over the last half of this year)! Clints Domestic Development position is currently still vacant, yet may change slightly to meet the needs of Wrestling Canada moving forward…  Yet somehow in 2013 so much was accomplished on a skeleton staff! This is a testament to many of the volunteers on our executive board ands committee members, but I believe Tamara Medwidsky's focus and work ethic is at the centre of a majority of this success. The changes continue to come with "new" weight categories and "new" rules moving into 2014! 

Wrestling Canada in 2013:
-Was a tremendous leader in the "Save Olympic Wrestling Movement"
-Canada now has 7 members involved in Fila at various committee levels (prior to 2013 it was 3)
-Canada had an active participation in the reformulation of the rules to be used moving forward in the sport of wrestling
-Hired three World Class leaders to run our programs moving toward 2016
-Went through a comprehensive governance review and is in the midst of governance restructuring
-Has created a new look and Rebranding as developed in conjunction with Epic design (very impressive, to be released by Nationals!)
-Has a new website design to be released by 2014 Nationals
-Has maintained (and built on) very strong partnerships with the Canadian Olympic Committee, Own the Podium, and Sport Canada
-Has maintained and built on our previously unproductive media and promotion strategy   
-Visited Rio for the second time in this quadrennial in 2013, in cooperation with the COC. Our goal to create an optimal Olympic Staging Plan, as well as friends and family Olympic options in Rio 2016!
-On top of all of these happenings our national teams (Cadet through Senior) were involved in the busiest year of events and tours in the history of our Program! With many great success stories in 2013! 

I would definitely like to acknowledge Tamara Medwidsky for her Outstanding Leadership of Wrestling Canada in 2013!

2014 and beyond….
I would like to challenge our entire Wrestling Community to come together in 2014. If this past year is any indication there are many more great things to be accomplished in the year ahead.
We need to improve and grow our sport nationwide, and to improve our support of our high performance athletes as they strive to be the best in the World!
As a united community I am sure we can overcome any challenges we might face in 2014, as we did this year! 
I know the new weight classes as presented by Fila offer a unique set of challenges to many of our National Team members.
Just another set of circumstances we will need to deal with on the road ahead! But our future is very bright all the same…
I wish everyone a great holiday season and a tremendous 2014!

Leigh Vierling
(Proud member of Wrestling Canada)

1 comment:

  1. Glad to read your blog.. Worth Reading! :)
    Just wanted to share my experience here. I am A Beachbody Coach and this is the best thing happened to me. I am very glad and satisfied with the results!