Leading the Mumbai Maharathis in the ongoing Pro Wrestling League (PWL), Rio Olympic Gold medalist wrestler Erica Wiebe eyes a spectacular series of wins on Indian soil, just like she has done internationally in the past few years.
The 27-year-old freestyle wrestler from Canada doesn’t like to settle for less than a victory. In 2014, she went on with a remarkable 36-match winning streak. Despite being from a country, where wrestling isn’t a marquee sport, Erica desires to achieve even more with every passing day.
Erica started her PWL campaign in style, thumping Kiran of Haryana Hammers by 16-0 in a one-sided affair on Monday. However, all her efforts went in vain as Mumbai lost 3-4 to Haryana in the end.
“Well, it (16-0 win) does feel great but at the same time, it’s sad for my team's loss. Nevertheless, the action in PWL has just begun… lots more to go,” Erica said in an exclusive interview to thestatesman.com.
“We will perform better in the matches to come. I am sure of enthusing the audience with quite an intense action on the mat,” the optimistic grappler, who competes in the 75 kg category, added.
Talking about her team Mumbai Maharathis, which feature seasoned international wrestlers like Carolina Hidalgo and Jabrayil Hasanov, Erica said, “It’s a balanced squad”, immediately adding, “Wrestling is a game wherein the game changes in mere seconds, so yes you can't be so sure of any bout. The only thing is put in your best technique. I am confident enough of my team's good performance.”
When asked who she sees as her toughest competitor in the 75 kg category at PWL, Erica replied “It’s a team sport and I see each and every team as my competitor. Each one of them is a challenger here and each bout helps your team take points. As a leader of the team, I only need to focus on my team winning the maximum bouts.”
However, Erica expressed she’s extremely excited about her bout against Sweden's Jenny Fransson, who is a part of the Jaipur franchise.
Mumbai Maharathis are scheduled to play Jaipur Ninjas on December 9 (Monday).
Erica also uttered the feeling of fist touch of Olympic Gold, which she won after defeating Russia’s Guzel Manyurova in the final at Rio de Janeiro.
“It is definitely an awesome feeling to win for your country and hear all people stand in respect for your national anthem on such a global stage. When I went back from Rio all my friends and family met and wanted to feel how heavy the medal actually is. It was a great feeling.”
Erica was the second Canadian woman to have won a gold medal in freestyle wrestling as Carol Huynh had clinched the same in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Motivated by the medal, Erica now feels proud, watching her Gold medal inspiring the Canadian youth to opt for the wrestling sport.
“When I returned from Rio, I visited the schools to interact with students and to tell them what it means to earn an Olympic medal. I felt good about sharing my experience and learning with kids. A medal does inspire a lot,” she said.
The runner-up wrestler, Manyurova, who won Bronze at the London Olympics, was mercilessly routed 6-0 by Erica in the final. Talking about the one-sided affair, the champion grappler said, “At first it did not sink in. But yes, I gave my everything into the bout and whatever happened on the mat speaks about my victory. I didn't think about who I was fighting with… I just thought about what I need to do at that moment to defeat her.”
Besides 2016 Rio Olympics Gold medal, Erica’s medal shelf is well decorated with THE 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Gold and 2015 Krasnoyarsk Golden Grand Prix event Gold. In 2014, Erica did miraculously well on the mat as she clinched every tournament she participated in and posted a remarkable winning streak of 36 matches.
“I always focus on thinking about future and hardly look back. But yes, when I sat at the end of 2014 then I started to realise… oh, I won this one, oh I won that one too! That was indeed a wow moment for me and a memory to cherish all my life. I feel it was just my dedication towards the sport and the training that made it possible,” Erica signed off.