Fazzari heads west
As she reaches the end of her storied wrestling career, Michelle Fazzari has sought out a new beginning.
In the second week of January, the long-time Brock Wrestling Club member bought a car online and flew out to Calgary to train at the University of Calgary.
“It was hard,” the 2016 Olympian said. “Brock is still home and I love Brock but I think a change was needed. I thought it would be good to be out training with people who are in the same boat as me.”
Training in Calgary are 2016 Olympic champion Erica Wiebe and Danielle Lappage, a former world silver medalist. Both have already qualified for the 2021 Olympics.
“I think it’s going to be really good,” the 33-year-old Caledonia native said. “I am looking forward to being in a new training environment and being put in uncomfortable positions. Going to a new room is very uncomfortable and I think that is what I need right now.”
Fazzari, who has recorded three top 10 finishes at the world championships, will miss Brock.
“I had great training partners and coaches at Brock and I love them. They are my family, for sure, and I love that team but I just needed a bit of a change.
Niagara hasn’t see the last of her.
“My qualifier is May and I am hoping I don’t come back until August because I would love to go to Tokyo. That is the plan.”
Fazzari failed to qualify at the 2020 Pan-American Olympic qualifier last March in Ottawa. The top two wrestlers advanced to Tokyo and she placed third.
“I don’t think I was right and I did not feel ready for that competition but I went in pretending like I was. I was close, for sure.”
Coming back from major knee surgery, Fazzari did well just to win the Canadian Olympic trials in December 2019.
“For me, I had the two surgeries and I have barely competed since 2018,” she said. “I had two months to train for Olympics trials and I had two months to train for the qualifiers. I was looking to have a solid four-month training environment and then everything shut down.”
Like all aspiring Olympians, the COVID 19 pandemic shutdown of sports was agonizing for Fazzari.
“To say it hasn’t been difficult would be an outright lie. It has been extremely hard. We make as many plans as we break lately.”
But with every setback comes opportunity.
“I think this has taught us that we have to remain fluid to deal with adversity. It is what it is and a lot of stuff is out of our control,” she said. “We have to find a way and that is what I am trying to do. What really bothers me right now is that I see every other country training and we are not allowed to so that’s what they need to figure out at the government level.
She full expects the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to happen, although, they will look completely different.
“There are a lot of naysayers and doubters saying Tokyo can’t happen but all I know is that it is happening and that’s how I have to train,” the former three-time Canadian university champion said. “The reason I think that the Olympics are going to happen is because there is money involved with broadcasting.
“I have to think it’s going to happen and I believe they are going to do the best they can to make it happen.”
The one small positive with the shutdown is that it was a chance to let her injuries heal.
“I look back at what I did and the practices I was going to and I probably should have done at least 30 per cent less,” she said. “I was overloading trying to keep up but I wasn’t at that level. I was coming close to injury my knee again with how hard I was pushing.”
She was and is motivated by a number of factors.
“I have spent a lot of the last few months figuring out what my purpose was and, for me, it’s my passion. I wake up and I still love it. With my personality, I will know when I am done.”
That love has carried her to an impressive list of wrestling accomplishments.
“I wrestle so much with my heart and I think a lot of the big matches that I have won are based on how much I care and how much I train,” she said. “You have to be all in and for me I am still all in.
“It is important for me to follow through what I have been striving to do a year ago.”
She agrees there has been a lot of pain, heartbreak and tears during her journey.
“When you are in it, you don’t see it and you are so ultra-focused and that (wrestling) room attracts those type of people. They are all ultra-focused athletes who work hard and grind. It is a room that pushes you beyond your limits,” she said. “When you’re an athlete, the bar is always set higher, As soon as you accomplish one thing, winning nationals or going to the Olympics, then it’s what is the next thing? The bar is never set too high.
“I am going to look back in five years and think that I was crazy.”
In five years, she expects her life to look much different.
“My goal is to focus on my teaching career and see what I can do there. I also hope to have some kids by then. I’m sure I will be focused on my family because I have put that to the side for a long time. I’m very excited to spend more time with my family and have a family of my own.”
The secondary school teacher landed a food and nutrition and history teaching job at Grimsby and District Secondary School last September but had to ask for a leave of absence.
Coaching at the high school level is also in her plans.
“I would love to develop a program at the school. Having a little program at Cayuga Secondary School is what gave me the life I have right now. If I could give that to someone else and pass on my knowledge, that would be really important.”
It’s time to win with BPSN!
To entice readers to make a donation to our site, we have come up with a contest.
BPSN is offering four prizes to anyone who makes a donation to our site, regardless of the amount. In addition, anyone who has made a contribution to our site in the past three months will also be entered in the contest. The contest will run until March 1 at midnight. At that time, four names will be randomly selected and contacted as the winners.
Thanks to Jeff Chcoski at the Niagara Brew Club for generously donating a Free Batch of Wine, 30 bottles, valued at $135 while Dan Timmins at Big Red Markets in Thorold has donated a $100 gift certificate.
As well, the Niagara IceDogs have donated a framed, autographed picture of Akil Thomas scoring the golden goal for Canada at the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships while the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games have donated a hoody.
Just hit the Support Us button located halfway down the right-hand side of our home page or the yellow Support Us button located at the top of each story to make your donation and be eligible to win.