Mon, September 23, 2013

Huynh pins hopes for more gold

By LARRY FINE, REUTERS


Carol Huynh (left) takes on Jessica MacDonald during the Canadian Olympic wrestling trials in Winnipeg last December. (Jason Halstead/QMI Agency/Files)

Canadian wrestler Carol Huynh is pinning her hopes of winning gold at the London Olympics on the power of positive thinking.

The diminutive Huynh, who won the 48 kilogram division at Beijing four years ago, has been forced to miss a series of important lead-up tournaments because of an untimely knee injury.

But rather than curse her bad luck, the 31-year-old is treating the injury as a blessing in disguise because it has enabled her to improve other aspects of her preparation.

"It has given me a chance to focus more on analyzing my opponents and the technical analysis of wrestling," she told Reuters.

"In the Olympics, you know who's going to be there. Eighteen countries qualified for the weight class for the women so you have an idea who the top competitors are going to be.

"It's a great way to study their strengths, their weaknesses and pick apart those weaknesses and create opportunities to attack and be on the offensive."

Positive thinking has been a constant in Huynh's life. Her parents left Vietnam as refugees to start a new life in Canada, settling in the British Columbia mountain town of Hazelton.

Huynh took up wrestling as a teenager after seeing the positive effect it had on one of her older sisters and was so good at it that she won a scholarship to study at a Vancouver University.

"I could see how it changed her self-confidence, her fitness," said Huynh, whose biology teacher was the school's wrestling coach.

"That combined with my competitiveness and it was just a lot of fun. And then it turned out I was good."

Huynh won three minor medals at the world championships between 2000 and 2005 before breaking through to win her first international title at the 2007 Pan American Games in Brazil.

A year later, she won the Olympic title, beating Japan's multiple world champion Chiharu Icho to claim Canada's first gold medal at the Beijing Games.

"Soon as the buzzer went, I threw up my arms and screamed," she recalled.

"I was crying and laughing I was just so happy. It was an amazing moment."

Since then, Huynh has added a Commonwealth Games gold medal in India and a second Pan American title in Mexico as well as completing a masters degree in psychology, an interest she shares with her husband Dan Biggs, a former wrestler who works as a counselor and social worker.

"There are tons of kids who want to be Carol Huynh when they grow up," Canadian wrestling coach Leigh Vierling said.

"She's got that great smile, she's a great spokesperson, she's well educated. As a role model, she fits the bill."

While some wrestlers rely on brute strength, Huynh thrives on tactics, technique and the element of surprise.

"I like to trick people, be quicker than them," she said.

"It's not just the physical part of it, it's the strategy, the mind-playing tricks. It's a lot of fun."

Not everything has gone according to plan for Huynh since Beijing. She has had some niggling injuries, finished third at last year's world championships and has had to adjust to life in the spotlight and the pressure of expectation.

"The last four years have provided me with a lot of different experiences, not altogether positive," she said.

"Sometimes those negative experiences are those that you learn the most from.

"What happens to you in life affects you. At this level everyone is going to be fit, have skills, be strong. What sets you apart is what is going on in your head.

"In that respect I feel like I've grown quite a bit. We'll see how it all unfolds."