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Qualifying for the Olympics with no fanfare, literally

Last Updated Mar 20, 2020 at 10:27 am MDT

Empty seats provide the background as Canadian wrestler Erica Wiebe steps on to the wrestling mat for competition at the Pan-American qualifier Saturday, March 14, 2020 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

OTTAWA (660 NEWS) — For a wrestler, the roar of the crowd is a motivator. The fans can give you that extra push, spurring you on while you’re on the mat, looking for a final takedown or hold.

Now imagine a ‘win and you’re in’ match in silence.

The recent Pan-American Olympic qualifying event in Ottawa was just that, hosted without spectators due to concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s been a lot of distractions in the world,” Canada’s Erica Wiebe admitted after her weekend victory that punched her ticket to Tokyo 2020. “I like to think that I’ve been through it all. It was fun to have a new challenge to work with and manage.

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“When the whistle blows, it’s game time, and I love the quietness that I feel on the mats when I compete.”

Wiebe, who calls Calgary home, captured gold in Rio four years ago at 76 kilogram.

“I have so much more to offer, and I’m really excited to put the training in over the next couple of months,” the 30-year-old said.

Wiebe wasn’t the only Albertan to qualify for the Olympics. Danielle Lappage of Olds also booked her spot at 68 kg.

“It’s a dream come true,” Lappage said post-bout. “I’ve been thinking about this moment since I got injured in Rio, since I knew I was able to wrestle again. It’s all been for this moment and for the Olympic Games.”

Canada has won three Olympic medals in wrestling: Wiebe’s gold in 2016, Carol Huynh’s 2008 gold and Daniel Igali’s gold in 2000.