In the depths of the University of Calgary Kinesiology building lies a small and dingy gymnasium which smells a little like sweat all the time, and a lot like sweat during practice. But don’t be fooled by the setting. This nondescript space is an incubator for Olympic medalists and World Champions in the sport of women’s wrestling. It’s not only home of the Dinos wrestling club but of the Calgary club team and the National team as well.
One can argue the women wrestlers are more of a family than a team. One woman you will find there on a regular basis is Jazzie Barker. She is a member of both the club team and the national team, and was once a Dino as well. She started wrestling in junior high school, and spent most of her time training with mostly male wrestlers.
When she made the transition to the University of Calgary, she noticed right away the effects of her new training ground were.
“Not only do I have more training partners, but having more people to push me to do better. That is the great thing about Calgary being the national training centre.”
Olympic gold medallist Carol Huynh has been in Calgary training with the national team since 2006.
She came from Simon Fraser University, where she trained for almost eight years.
“I was at a point where I was kind of getting stale. I needed a change of coaching styles and training partners. You learn a lot from your training partners. They are the people that really push you to be better.”
Huynh was the first woman to win a gold medal for women’s wrestling for Canada, at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and more recently won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in London.
While she still competes, she has moved more toward the coaching side of the sport, passing on her knowledge.
The number of medals and championship titles held by just the current women’s wrestling family at the centre is extraordinary, at both the collegiate and non-collegiate level.
Barker won a World Championship bronze medal in 2011 and in 2012 wants to be a World medalist again.
She also has her eyes set on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
Like Barker, her teammates are young and still have big dreams they want to accomplish.
“There is really good prospects for me because the girl that I lost to in 2011 is no longer competing and I have so far beaten everyone else.”
“It’s looking really positive as long as I keep going in the same direction.”