Wrestler grapples with Olympic postponement
Like most people in Ontario, wrestler Michelle Fazzari is going stir crazy coping with social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She has gone hiking, trained a little and on Tuesday she had a quick shopping trip planned.
“I am actually going to go to Canadian Tire to buy a skipping rope before they close,” she said. “I wish the weather was a little bit nicer outside but it’s not terrible.”
The 32-year-old Caledonia native has been also dealing with the news that her goal of being a two-time Olympian is on hold. On Sunday, the Canadian Olympic Committee announced it wasn’t sending a team to Tokyo and then, on Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee decided to postpone the Games until 2021.
Fazzari heard the COC’s news Sunday on a conference call about three hours before it was released to the general public.
“It was hard but in one way I was relieved because the world qualifier was April 30 and it had been moved to June 4-7,” said Fazzari, who came within one spot of earning an Olympic berth at the Pan American qualifier March 13-15 in Ottawa.“I was really anxious about it and pacing back and forth in my house. I knew I needed to be training and I wasn’t able to.”
It was disconcerting as Fazzari saw all her avenues for training close.
“In Ottawa, they closed the restaurants down before they closed them here and one by one, things were closing,” she said. “The big gyms were closing but we could still go to the (Brock) performance centre. Then everything was closing.”
Now that the decision has been made to postpone the Olympics and the anxiety over the uncertainty over, the 2016 Olympian can reflect and realize it’s a blessing in disguise.
Fazzari suffered a serious knee injury in April 2018 at the Commonwealth Games in Australia and various complications and setbacks kept her off the mats until October 2019. She gutted her way through the Olympic trials last December, but she needs more time to get back to her peak performance level.
“I could really use the time because I competed like a fraction of myself at the Pan Am qualifiers,” the Brock Wrestling Club member said. “I know I need more time. Marty (coach Calder) knows I need more time.
“It’s a lot to take almost two years off and jump right back into the Olympic level. There were no easy tournaments when I came back in.”
Fazzari describes the postponement as bittersweet.
“I need the time but I was supposed to retire in 2020,” she said. “I put off my career, I put off having a family and can I do this for another 16 months?”
The answer is a definite yes.
“C.J. (husband Hudson) probably isn’t too happy about it but…”
Fazzari placed third among seven qualifiers at 62 kilograms, losing to Brazilian Lais Nunes De Oliveira in pool action and American Kayla Miracle in the semifinals. She then defeated Venezuela’s Nathaly Griman Herrera in the bronze-medal match.
“It wasn’t too great. There was a lot of hesitancy to take my attacks,” Fazzari said. “They are gone at that level if you think about it.”
She took a lot of positives from the qualifier, including having Calder back in her corner.
“Just being a team again and having that was a win,” she said. “And being on the mat again was a win but we need to get to the next level. I’m optimistic because a lot can change in a month or two.”
Fazzari agrees it was difficult to wrestle with all the pandemic news breaking on an hourly basis.
“At this level, you have to be professional about it,” she said. “It is what it is and everyone was freaking out about it. I had to roll with it and focus on what I could control.”
Those words of wisdom are something we all need to pay attention to in the weeks ahead.