Canadian wrestlers grapple with post-Olympic blues ahead of worlds
World championships open in Paris this week
While an Olympic season can be harrowing for an athlete, with its ups and downs, the year that begins once the cauldron goes dark may also be fraught with volatility.
For some of Canada's top wrestlers, this week's world championships — running Monday through Saturday in Paris — will punctuate a difficult year, for individually unique reasons.
The champion, sidelined
On Aug. 18, 2016, Erica Wiebe won an Olympic gold medal.
In the year since she has become the embodiment of a modern Olympic champion in this country — nationally fêted, a guest of honour everywhere, always smiling... a charity-supporting model citizen.
And it's thrown her completely out of whack.
"For the last year I haven't had a balanced identity," says Wiebe.
"I've just thrown myself into being a wrestler and being an Olympic champion and all of the excitement and opportunities that that has afforded me, but it's almost hard because then my identity is totally placed in that."
Olympic gold has taken Wiebe to the far reaches of Canada, and even to India for a highly paid pro wrestling gig.
One year after her Rio triumph, the 28-year-old will miss the world championships for a few reasons.
First, there are injuries. She says a post-Olympic MRI revealed numerous issues in her right foot. To make it worse, she tore the fascia in that foot in February. Three weeks later, she fractured cartilage in her ribs.
And then there's the question of life balance.
"I feel like I'm so much more than just a wrestler," says Wiebe.
The Stittsville, Ont., native is working on a wrestling program for school visits in Calgary where she trains, to even things out.
Mian vs. Mian
Jasmine Mian also knows how difficult life can be post-Olympics.
"Everyone always warns you the year after the Olympics is kind of challenging, but you don't believe it until you're faced with it yourself," she says.
Rio 2016 was her first Olympics. She competed in the freestyle 48-kg category, and will do the same in Paris this week.
Mian went to Brazil to win a medal and was disappointed with 12th place.
A lifetime of work fell to pieces in one day.
"To be honest, it kind of broke me," she says.
Afterwards, her motivation hit an all-time low, and Mian began to doubt herself.
"I thought I was weak because every single day I wanted to quit," says the 27-year-old.
Mian struggled with the Rio heartbreak, and the thought of four more years to the next Olympics, knowing nothing is guaranteed.
"I think that this year actually has been in some ways my strongest year ever because I've been faced with that option [to quit] every single day and every single day I've chosen to train," says Mian, from Barrie, Ont.
Similar to her good friend Wiebe, Mian chose to balance her life by plunging into another pursuit.
She works full-time as an academic advisor to University of Calgary varsity athletes, jamming in training before and after her work day.
The men's team is highlighted by three-time Olympian Haislan Garcia and Rio 2016 Olympian Korey Jarvis.
After Rio, Garcia moved to Tempe, Ariz., to take a position as a volunteer assistant coach with Arizona State University, where he also trains.
His 14-year-old son stayed behind in Vancouver.
"It's hard for sure, being away from him," says Garcia. They talk on the phone, and see each other when Garcia is in Vancouver, "It's not the same," he admits.
It seems change is often a companion of a new quadrennial, when planning for and grappling with unknown forces demands all the strength of an Olympic year, and maybe more.