Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Epp Maee of Estonia and Erica Elizabeth Wiebe of Canada compete.

PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW/Reuters

A five-year effort to return to the top of the Olympic podium ended in about five minutes Sunday for Canadian wrestler Erica Wiebe.

Estonia’s Epp Maee jumped out to a quick lead and hung on for a 5-4 win in their first-round matchup at the Makuhari Messe Hall. It was a fairly surprising early exit for the defending champion, who couldn’t recover from a slow start.

“My only goal today was just to compete at my best, and I think I did that the last two minutes of the match,” Wiebe said. “That wasn’t enough today.”

Story continues below advertisement

Her formal elimination from the women’s freestyle 76-kilo draw was finalized a short time later. Wiebe had a slim chance of falling into the repechage for a chance at bronze, but that hope was dashed when Maee lost her next match.

“This is a new competition,” Maee said of facing the Rio Games champion. “The previous result doesn’t matter. It was a new match, it was a new day. We were both there to win.”

Maee, a two-time world bronze medalist, led 3-0 at the break and added another deuce early in the second round. Wiebe, from Stittsville, Ont., scored a takedown and picked up two more points by turning Maee’s shoulders toward the mat.

The Canadian tried valiantly in the dying seconds to score with a step-out or takedown but Maee stuffed the attempts.

“I know how [Erica] can move and I know the pressure she can apply on people and I felt that she had not done that right from the start,” said Canadian coach Paul Ragusa. “It took a little bit to settle in to the match, that’s it.”

Wiebe had to adjust her training plans during the pandemic, bringing weights and a wrestling mat into her basement. When facilities were shut down last year, the Calgary-based athlete trained outdoors on the grass and often shadow-wrestled by visualizing attacks.

“I definitely have been off the mats more than I have cumulatively over the past probably 10 years,” she said. “So it’s been a challenge to do that.”

Story continues below advertisement

Ragusa noted that high-performance programs in European countries had more options last year for travel and training, adding many teams were able to hold regular camps.

Wiebe, meanwhile, had limited training partners and finite travel options at times.

“We had to really adjust our plan based on quarantines and that,” she said. “We created a good solid environment for ourselves. In the current circumstances, we were able to do what we could and be the best prepared that we could be for this tournament.”

Wiebe resumed competing late last year but battled knee and ankle injuries in the lead-up to the Games. She was determined to persevere, no matter the challenge.

“I like to live my life being delusionally optimistic,” she said. “So I had a Plan A to Z, for every single outcome. You’ve got to catastrophize your situation. You’ve got to think, `What’s the worst-case scenario and how do I work back from that to still be successful?’”

Wiebe said she tore her medial collateral ligament last December and tore her lateral collateral ligament a month later. A badly sprained ankle - suffered a few weeks ago in her last match before Tokyo - left her in a walking boot.

Story continues below advertisement

“She was prepared here,” said Ragusa. “It wasn’t impacting her. She wasn’t 100-per-cent, but I don’t think that ankle impacted her movement here.”

Wiebe, who won world bronze in 2018, didn’t have her usual jump in the opening round. She lost time when she got caught in some positions and struggled to generate offence.

“I think she tweaked her knee pretty bad on the first takedown, the same one she injured,” Ragusa said. “I think that impeded a bit of the movement. But at the end, she still got the takedown.

“So she’s still moving. I don’t think she had any excuses.”

Maee fell to Japan’s Hiroe Minagawa, who advanced to the evening semi-finals against Germany’s Aline Rotter Focken. Five-time world champion Adeline Maria Gray of the United States was to face Kyrgyzstan’s Aiperi Medet Kyzy in the other semi-final.

Medal bouts were scheduled for Monday.

Story continues below advertisement

“I felt so ready,” Wiebe said. “My team, despite all the challenges, we came together and we found a way to train and compete in every single moment.

“I’m so proud and so grateful to be here today.”

Sign up for The Globe’s Olympic newsletter and follow all of the news, features and opinion in the leadup to the Summer Games in Tokyo.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies