Ligrit Sadiku is a step away from competing for Canada at the Olympics.
The 23-year-old Summerside native won the 57-kilogram division of the Canadian Wrestling Trials Saturday in Niagara, Ont.
“It’s amazing,” he said Sunday. “It’s been what I’ve been training for my whole wrestling career. It’s what I’ve been dreaming (about). The fact that I am one step closer just gives me more confidence to keep going and to achieve the actual goal.”
He now advances to the Pan-Am Qualifying Tournament, March 13-15 in Ottawa, where he needs to finish first or second to earn a berth to the 2020 Toyko Olympics, which run from July 24-Aug. 9.
“It will be tough, but I’ll be ready,” Sadiku said.
Sadiku, who went into this weekend’s competition as the No. 2 seed in his weight class, earned a bye into the quarter-finals. He won the two single-elimination matches to reach the best-of-three final.
Sadiku, who competes for the Brock University Wrestling Club, lost the first round by a 4-3 decision to Aso Palani of Burnaby Mountain Wrestling Club. The loss came on a challenge by Palani that didn’t go Sadiku’s way.
“It was quite frustrating and very hard to mentally regroup, but I knew I wasn’t out and had to keep going,” he explained.
Sadiku came out aggressive in the second round and won by technical fall 12-2 to carry moment into Round 3 with a berth in the qualifying tournament on the line.
Sadiku said he wrestled a smart, controlled match. Leading, he and his coaches decided to challenge a call and won en route to a 4-1 decision.
He slapped the mat and ran and jumped into his coaches’ arms as years of hard work had paid off in the biggest tournament of his career.
“I couldn't contain myself. I screamed. I was just so happy.”
Sadiku was one of three Islanders competing in the event.
Summerisde’s Hannah Taylor finished second in the 57-kilogram division while Oyster Bed Bridge’s Veronica Keefe was fourth in the 68-kilogram division, that saw 2016 Olympian Danielle Lappage win the weight class.
Taylor lost to world champion Linda Morais, a Montreal native, in the final in a weight class that included four world medallists. Morais used the same technique to pin Taylor and win the first two rounds.
“I just wasn't as good as that girl, so that kind of hurts because you think you’re ready to make it to the Olympics,” Taylor said Sunday.
It was Taylor’s first time competing in the event. The 21-year-old will use it as a learning experience.
“I have a few cycles left in me,” she said. “I am going to use this opportunity as a chance to get better and grow from it, so in four years I will be ready.”
Sadiku and Taylor started wrestling together about eight years ago at the Wolfpack Wrestling Club in Summerside. They now both train with the Brock Badgers university team in St. Catharines, Ont., and have been dating for about seven years.
“I am so excited and happy (for him),” Taylor said. “To . . . him have the ability to showcase who he is as a wrestler to the rest of Canada, and have everyone know who he is now, is amazing because I know who dedicated he is and how hard working he is.”
Wrestling P.E.I. president Megan Morrison said the trio are excellent role models, who give back to the sport when they come home by assisting with practices and training camps for young wrestlers.
“It was surreal to watch three Islanders compete at such a high-profile event,” she said. “We are so proud of their hard work and dedication. All three had a shot at winning their weight class.”
Taylor said they are fortunate to have great support from Prince Edward Island.
“Everyone is so excited and just so happy for both of us to even get to this point. It’s pretty amazing to be 21 and 23 and make it that far in the tournament,” she said. “It’s just overwhelming to know how many people are proud of us and are supporting us and cheering us on.”
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