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COMMONWEALTH GAMES

Canadian wrestlers clean up on Commonwealth mat 0

By Terry Jones, Edmonton Sun

Brittanee Laverdure of Canada (left) and Ifeoma Nwoye of Nigeria grapple during their women's freestyle 55kg wrestling semifinal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, on Thursday, July 31, 2014. (Andrew Winning/Reuters)

Brittanee Laverdure of Canada (left) and Ifeoma Nwoye of Nigeria grapple during their women's freestyle 55kg wrestling semifinal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, on Thursday, July 31, 2014. (Andrew Winning/Reuters)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - 

Wrestling was out. A sport which had been part of the Olympics from the very beginning had been bounced.

Last February, the IOC voted to remove the sport from the 2020 Olympics and onwards.

“It was pretty sad. I'm not going to say I didn't cry about it because I did. I cried for all the young wrestlers,” said Danielle Lappage of Olds, Alta., who joined Tamerlan Tagziev of Toronto as the final two Canadians to win gold medals and complete a remarkable medal haul here in wrestling.

Fourteen events. Twelve medals.

Seven gold. Two silver. Three bronze.

It was wonderful stuff to experience as the two enjoyed their moment for everything it was. But if wrestling wasn't at future Olympics that wouldn't have been the case at future Commonwealth Games, said Lappage.

“In terms of those young athletes, those young wrestlers coming up and not getting that chance ...

“This stuff, wouldn't be as exciting,” she said of the Commonwealth Games this year and next year's Pan-Am Games in Toronto.

“It would be sad.

“Without the Olympics to strive for ...

“In terms of those young wrestlers coming up and not getting that chance, that was the most sad part of it. Not necessarily for myself because I knew wrestling was still going to be in Rio,” said the competitor who will be 24 in September and could conceivably be around for 2020.

In September of last year, the IOC, reacting to worldwide outrage, announced that wrestling would return to the Olympics in 2020 after all.

So all was good again.

“The Olympic situation is definitely better than it was at this time a year ago,” said women's head coach Leigh Vierling, who hails from Calgary.

“Right now it is no longer considered a core sport like it had been but it is definitely in for 2016, 2020 and 2024.”

Vierling was asked to analyze Canada's success here after two less than successful Commonwealth Games which preceded it.

“We'll find out in six weeks. We have our senior world championships in six weeks. We wanted to use this as a preparation meet event but also, because most of these kids are targeted for Rio, we really wanted them to get a multi-sport Games experience, to step in and face the media, the limelight and the pressure,” said Vierling.

“So far I'd say it's been a great success. On the men's side five of seven have won medals and on the women's side all seven.

“That's exciting. It shows the depth of our program and it's an important stepping stone for those kids moving toward Rio.”

Tagziev and Lappage were definitely excited when they won their medals on a day when Brittanee Laverdure of Watson Lake, Yukon, and Jevon Balfour of Brampton, Ont., settled for silver.

“I'm proud of these Canadians,” said Tagziev of his teammates as he walked off the mat a winner in the final bout of the Games.

“I am so proud I made all Canadians happy,” added the relatively new Canadian. “I am so proud the national anthem is going to play for me.”

Alberta's Lappage, seconds later, came off the podium experience, having maintained a big smile throughout the national anthem.

“That was crazy. I've won tournaments before, obviously, but that was the most excitement,” he said.

“The audience in Scotland made it just that much better. They made every match so exciting to win. It was so exciting to be out there, even.

“This is one of the most fun tournaments I've ever been involved in. I've cried before from winning. But I haven't been so smiley, I guess, because all the fans were just incredible. It's been one of my favorite moments for sure.”

There can be many more ahead for her and the Canadian wrestlers in the future now thanks to the IOC deciding to reverse its deplorable decision.

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