Summer Sports

How will Olympic champion Erica Wiebe reinvent her winning formula?

Olympic champion Erica Wiebe takes on world champion Justina Di Stasio this weekend in the Canadian's first steps towards wrestling in Tokyo 2020.

Road to Tokyo starts this weekend with nationals in Saskatoon

Erica Wiebe became Olympic champion in Rio 2016. But now that Tokyo 2020 is less than 500 days away, that gold medal is in her rearview mirror. (Jack Guez/Getty Images)

Some call this weekend's Canadian wrestling championships in Saskatoon the first steps toward the Summer Games in 2020.

But for Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion Erica Wiebe, the journey to Tokyo the day after she won her gold medal that August in 2016.

"After the Rio games, it was like, 'Ok, am I going to commit to putting in every single day for four years?' That's such a long period of time," Wiebe, from Stittsville, Ont., told CBC Sports. "[Athletes] live in this crazy world where every single day matters, but the journey is so long. 

"So it's kind of cool to have that kind of perspective."

Olympic champion vs. world champion

That perspective will come into sharp focus in the coming months. This weekend at nationals Wiebe faces teammate Justina Di Stasio, the world champion from Coquitlam, B.C. The event will determine which athletes will be on Canada's national team and go on to compete at marquee events like the Pan American Games in July and the world championships in September.

It promises to be an interesting matchup. Not only do the two know each others' style, but Di Stasio has moved up to the 76-kilogram weight class for this weekend's competition, up from the 72 kg class where she won her world title.

"We've wrestled against each other a lot, she's a tough competitor," Wiebe said. "It's exciting to have that challenge within Canada and to know we have some of the best wrestlers in the world."

So how does someone who's won the Olympic and Commonwealth Games manage to not only keep up with the new competition, but to get even better?

"Focusing on some really technical aspects, bringing in training partners from all over the world, going to different events, putting myself in challenging positions and really trying to open myself up to different scoring opportunities," Wiebe said.

How a champion improves

"Wrestling is such a technical sport, it's so tactical, it's so physically endearing," she said." There's so many different ways to win.

"So I have my special brand of wresting that's allowed me to get success, but I'm continuing to tap into many other ways to win."

Another way Wiebe will try keep herself at the top until Tokyo is to put that Olympic medal behind her.

"I try not to think about Rio as much anymore," she said. "I try to never let one day define me."