Stittsville Wrestler Erica Wiebe named Canada's flag-bearer for Gold Coast closing ceremonies

By Neil Davidson

GOLD COAST, Australia – When the call came, Canadian wrestler Erica Wiebe thought she might be in trouble.

The word from Wrestling Canada's executive director was to report immediately to the Canada office at the athletes village.

“We turned the corner and the chef de mission for Team Canada (Claire Carver-Dias), the assistant chef (Benoit Huot) were both there and I instantly was like 'Oh maybe it's not so bad. I didn't get too crazy last night,'” Wiebe said with a laugh.

The news was the 28-year-old from Stittsville, Ont., who successfully defended her Commonwealth Games 76-kilogram title on the Gold Coast, will serve as Canada's flag-bearer at Sunday's closing ceremonies.

“I'm so proud to play for Team Canada, I'm so proud to wrestle for Team Canada,” said Wiebe, who trains out of Calgary. “To lead the team that has done so amazing at this Commonwealth games into the closing ceremonies, it's surreal.”

Montreal diver Meaghan Benfeito carried the Canadian flag at the opening ceremonies at Carrara Stadium.

Wiebe stopped Nigeria's Blessing Onyebucho on Thursday to win a second successive gold at the Commonwealth Games. She also won in Rio in 2016, joining Tonya Verbeek (now head coach of Canada's wrestling team) and Carol Huynh as Canada's only female Olympic wrestling medallists.

“To win the 2014 Commonwealth Games, then the 2016 Olympic Games, and repeat again as Commonwealth Champion is an amazing achievement,” said Carver-Dias. “With her unquenchable energy and love of the Commonwealth sport movement, Erica embodies the true spirit of Canada's amazing athletes.”

Wiebe has a special spot for the Commonwealth Games, saying her win in Glasgow four years ago helped pave the way to Rio.

“Winning at Com Games 2014 gave me the confidence that in Rio I knew I was capable of,” she said.

“And so now it's four years later, everything has changed. Being a defending champion here and (winning) here has given me that confidence – Tokyo (site of the 2020 Olympics) is two years away and that's what my focus is on, that's what my goal is. It's a good building step towards that.”

Wiebe said carrying the flag will be special.

“It'll be emotional for sure,” she said. “After I heard the news earlier (Saturday), I was kind of thinking about what it would be like to hold the flag in my hands, hold the pole in my hands for the first time. It'll be really interesting to have that experience and to walk into that stadium and be representing all that Team Canada embodies.”

Wiebe is only the second wrestler to carry the flag into the Commonwealth Games ceremony; Daniel Igali acted as flag-bearer for the opening ceremony of the 2002 games in Manchester.

Canada had 81 medals (15 gold, 39 silver, 27 bronze) going into the final day of competition Sunday. Canadians earned 82 medals (32-16-34) four years ago in Glasgow.