Dorothy (call her Dori) Yeats is a chip off the old block.
And when the old block is a five-time Olympic wrestler now doubling as both her manager and one of the coaches, that’s a powerful combination for a daughter to take with her into the ring.
Dori Yeats, 21, the Canadian freestyle wrestling champion at 69 kilograms, is a legitimate medal contender for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, one who has shown every bit of the drive, talent and brains of her more famous dad, Doug.
“Even if I told you he wasn’t a big mentor for me I’d be lying – pretty much everything in my life is exactly in his footsteps,” said Dori Yeats, in an interview with CBC Sports. “He is a mechanical engineer, I’m studying civil engineering. He’s a wrestler, I’m a wrestler.
“And, I guess a lesser example is we both love pit bulls, so we have everything in common.”
They are also a father-daughter team, something that has worked out well precisely, Dori believes, because they formed the partnership later rather than sooner.
She came to wrestling from gymnastics (mom Katalin Totoczky was excellent at the sport in Hungary) and worked with other grappling coaches for the first few years before switching over.
“I feel if I had started with my father as my coach I probably wouldn’t have reached the level I am today,” said the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist. “Just because maybe I’d be more defiant [and] for him to teach me to learn discipline, it would have been a little harder.”
That whole teenager vs. parent thing.
Now, they work together well.
Dad, who was a Greco-Roman wrestler at the world level, helps organize a large team that includes half-a-dozen coaches, plus the help that comes from B2ten – a group of private business people that came together in the run-up to the Vancouver Winter Games, who put a lot of money into providing the best staff and facilities for top Canadian athletes.
That includes experts in sports psychology, nutrition, finances, cardio and more.
She can now also turn to Kyle Shewfelt, the Olympic gold medallist in gymnastics, as a mentor thanks to the Team Next program run by CIBC.
All of these people are helped along by the fact their charge seems to have what it takes both mentally and physically.
Item: Yeats took what she calls “a bit of an injury” into the national team qualifier back in March, where “I won the tournament.”
It took Doug to fill in a few missing details.
“Dori had an MCL tear in her leg that was nowhere near healed at that time,” he said last week, over the phone from Montreal. “And she had to wrestle because otherwise she would be at the bottom of the ladder for the Olympic trials and miss out on the Pan Am Games and all the other big competitions.”
Problem was, Dori Yeats could not allow anyone to touch that leg or it might have been the end of the season right there. And ending the matches early would be a key, as well.
After an opening-round bye, there was a 4-0 victory over Okotoks, Alta.’s Cassidy Barnert, then a 9-0 romp over Olivia Di Bacco, of Orillia, Ont., and an emphatic final 12-0 pasting of Calgary’s Leah Ferguson, the 2012 Olympian and veteran international, in less than a minute. All told, 25-0, and no one touched the bad limb.
“It shows the mental and physical ability, if she sets her mind to it,” said Doug.
Force = mass x gravity
Force = mass x gravity may be the key equation for any wrestler on the matt, but if you’re looking at the math required to win an Olympic gold medal the figures could fill an entire black board.
Despite Dori Yeats’ high IQ and a lifetime of high academic achievement (she’s in her first year of engineering at McGill University in Montreal), there are times for thinking, and times to shut the big brain down.
“When I’m competing … it’s just too fast paced … I’m not thinking of the math behind what I’m doing,” she says. “But when I’m learning a new technique, when I’m learning to understand what makes it work and what’s the most effective way to make it work, I definitely use the physics of the human body.”
She’s even done a statics and engineering project on how torque, moment of inertia, centre of mass all express themselves in wrestling.
Indeed, everything to do with the Yeats attack on an Olympic gold seems to have been covered. Except one that dad points out: You can’t do anything about luck, no matter how much you have mastered technique, tactics, the mental game or physical skills.
“On the day when you are asked to go out there and beat six top-level competitors and win the Olympics, you have to have some luck,” said Doug, who started his Games run in 1976 at Montreal and finished at Barcelona in 1992. “I don’t think there’s anyone who has ever won the Olympics that didn’t have a little bit of luck.
“[Winning] is basically controlling and eliminating as many question marks as you can, and that’s the challenge here. I think Dori is very focused on that.”
Here’s the math around Dori Yeats making it to the Olympics.
The national team win in March qualified the Montreal native for the Pan Am Games at Toronto in July and the world championship in September at Las Vegas. At that latter event, a top-six finish gives Canada (not Yeats specifically) an Olympic berth in a specific weight class.
Then it’s on to the Olympic trials in December, where everyone else in the weight category battles for the chance to meet Yeats in a best-of-three final with a ticket to Rio as the prize.
On the off chance she does not finish top-six in Vegas, there are three final chances next year.
So, it’s fair to say the Pan Am Games will not be the time for peak performance, nor will it be the most important tournament of the year. Still, there is something special about it.
“When you go to a Games [as opposed to a sport championship], there are people from other sports that are there, and you are in a village, and there are a lot of protocols,” said Yeats, who has done a Youth Olympics and the Commonwealth Games last year.
“I’ve heard a lot of stories from athletes who make an Olympic team where they get a little overwhelmed with that kind of atmosphere of the village and being in a Games and surrounded by other sports and other athletes, and being part of Team Canada.”
Toronto, therefore, becomes “a mental preparation” for Rio.
Another part of the scientific equation, as it were.