Team Mac wins the battle
Jessie MacDonald couldn’t have picked a better way to celebrate her 35th birthday.
With 7-2 and 12-1 victories over Madison Parks of the London Western Wrestling Club Saturday, the Brock Wrestling Club member won the Canadian Olympic freestyle wrestling trials for the first time.
“I was born this day and my dreams came true on this day,” she said.
She made those dreams come true by suspending reality.
“I just keep telling myself it was the Guelph Open,” MacDonald said, while fighting back tears. “I keep downplaying the importance of it because I have always put this (trials) on a pedestal and it’s not on a pedestal.
“It’s the same people and I kept telling myself to go and do your moves and wait for the opening.”
She picked the Guelph Open for obvious reasons.
“I have won the Guelph Open so many times and I needed to realize it was the exact same people I wrestle all the time,” she said. “It was the same people, the same mats and the same shoes so just keep it simple.”
MacDonald went unbeaten to win the 50-kilogram division at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls.
“I honestly felt that I wrestled terrible this weekend, but I also feel that I did what I needed to do to get it done and sometimes that just what it is,” she said. “You do what you need to do to get it done.”
The former world champion and three-time world medalist was able to win after two previous heartbreaks at the Olympic trials.
“It was part of the journey and I would not be where I am right now if it wasn’t for those failures,” the eight-time national champion said. “It has made me so resilient and stubborn and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.
“Ella (her three-year-old daughter) exists because of those failures and sometimes failures are needed in order to make us stronger.”
MacDonald overcame the odds to even wrestle at the trials after undergoing shoulder surgery this year that involved a bone graft, screws and ligaments being reattached to the bone.
“It was so unbelievable that everything came together after this year because honestly in May I thought I was done,” she said. “It was ‘How is this happening to me?’ but I basically had the mindset that nobody was going to stop me even if it meant I was going to train until my arm came off.”
After winning the second and deciding match, MacDonald ran and jumped into the arms of her husband Evan MacDonald, a former Olympian. Evan was in her corner along with Brock coach Dave Collie.
“He has been everything to me and he has believed in me since we first started dating and I was terrible (at wrestling),” she said. “He always told me that I had what it took and I couldn’t have had more support from him. There really truly isn’t a better husband out there.
“This was our goal, our dream with our daughter, and we did this together as family.”
The stands of the Scotiabank Convention Centre were crowded with upwards of 40 people wearing white Team MacDonald T-shirts.
“I have always said that it is not one person that steps on that mat,” she said. “I knew that I had so many people behind me. It’s my friends, my family, therapists, coaches and training partners who have given me so much that I could never give back.
“When I went out there, it was Team Mac and it was us against the world.”
MacDonald still has one step left to fulfil her dream of becoming an Olympian. The first chance to qualify for the Olympics will be the 2020 Pan-American Olympic Qualification Tournament March 13-15 In Ottawa. The top two wrestlers at that event qualify for Tokyo 2020.
“This has been a grind and I have had no down time since the surgery because it has been a slow progression of getting back to where I needed to be,” she said. “I will take two weeks off the mat and relax a little bit, get my body healed and take the whole thing in.
“It will be a grind until March and then a grind until August. It’s not going to stop.”
Not stopping is what makes MacDonald a champion.
“Jessie got it done on the third time for her,” Brock head coach Marty Calder said. “She has always been knocking on the door but she’s a workhorse and she’s passionate about what she does. I am really happy for her.”