Canada Summer Games pivotal for Fazzari
Michelle Fazzari can thank her mom Debbie for getting a chance to represent Ontario at the 2005 Canada Summer Games in Regina, Saskatchewan.
A coach with the Hamilton Wrestling Club, Chris Fraser, told the 33-year-old Caledonia native’s mom to take her to a qualifying tournament while she was still in high school.
“I didn’t have a team and I was just getting into the sport. I had no idea what it was for,” the Brock Wrestling Club member said. “We were surprised that I even made the finals and then they brought us to a room and gave us a package for the Canada Summer Games.”
The news eventually sank in for the 2016 Olympian.
“It was like ‘Wow, I get to go on this tour and be a part of this team.’ That is when I realized I was going on and it was the turning point in my wrestling career.
“That is when I started to take wrestling seriously.”
That career would see her win national titles, represent Canada at the world championships and the Pan Am, Francophone and Commonwealth Games and compete at the Olympics.
And it was all sparked by her appearance at the 2005 Canada Summer Games.
“I couldn’t wait to see what was next,” the three-time Canadian University champion said. “I had no idea that this realm of sporting existed and I was so new to all of it. I had never wrestled for a club before and I was just at the high school level and starting to get my feet wet.”
The winner of the most recent Canadian Olympic trials describes the Canada Games as one of the favourite moments of her wrestling career.
“One moment that sticks out to me is being in an elevator with Christine Nordhagen when she was heading down to the competition,” Fazzari said. “I had seen her face on a poster and I thought thought ‘Omigosh. That is Christine Nordhagen.’
“I idolized her and I really admired what she did.”
Nordhagen had an excellent international career for Canada, winning six medals at the world championships and placing fifth at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.
Unfortunately for Fazzari, she didn’t have the courage to talk to Nordhagen in the elevator that day.
“Absolutely not,” she said, with a laugh. “I was so shy.”
Fazzari ended up making it to the Canada Games finals before losing to Nikita Chicoine of Quebec, who went into the meet as a three-time Eastern Canadian champion.
“I cruised through everyone and got into the finals. This girl was way above me and I didn’t know even half the moves that she was doing to me.”
Fazzari’s silver medal helped Ontario win a bronze medal in the team event.
Away from the competition, it was the team bonding that still resonates the most in Fazzari’s memory.
“We were walking around the village meeting the other athletes and it is your first introduction to a Games, albeit on a smaller scale, but I had never seen anything like that.”
The Cayuga Secondary School alumna, who was introduced to wrestling by Mick Calder, describes the Closing Ceremony as super cool.
“I think they were held at the university and as we went through the whole field, everyone was thinking that it was so crazy,” she said. “It is a really cool experience for young athletes.”
Fazzari recently moved to another residence and when packing up she came across all the pins she had collected during the 2005 Games.
“It’s like that in every Games but I had no clue what they were,” she said. “We were just going around collecting pins and talking to the athletes from other provinces.”
Fazzari is looking forward to the Niagara 2021 Canada Summer Games and feels Niagara residents are in for a treat.
“They should be excited about going to see the next generation and the athletes who are going to be the next Olympians,” she said. “It is the grassroots of sports and there is something so pure about it. It is so enjoyable to watch these athletes with the same mission, values and core beliefs as those who are going for something so special.”
Fazzari is hoping 2021 will also be special for her as she attempts to earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympics. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has undermined her training.
“It is what it is and I just had to go with the flow of things,” she said. “You don’t have any control and some days are better than others.”