Olympic wrestling hopeful Dutchak looking for redemption at Canadian trials | Globalnews.ca

Just this year alone, Katie Dutchak has used her passion for wrestling to travel the world.

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That’s included stops in Vancouver and New York on her home continent, as well as training camps and competitions in Hungary, Poland and Sweden.

Even with all the airline miles she’s racked up competing around the globe, it’s the wrestling room at the University of Saskatchewan where the former Huskies star feels most at home.

“This room is a room of comfort,” Dutchak said. “But at the same time it’s challenging, every time I step into this room there’s a new challenge.”

Dutchak is in the midst of the most intense training period of her career so far, as she’s nearing the Canadian team trials in Edmonton — a competition that will determine the lucky wrestlers who will get to represent Canada at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

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“It’s terrifying, it’s exciting, it’s challenging, it’s all the emotions,” Dutchak said. “It’s just a total roller-coaster and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Dutchak wrestled with the Huskies between 2015 and 2020 after being convinced to continue her wrestling career following high school, giving up an opportunity to pursue rodeo in the United States.

Click to play video: 'Record-setting start to season driving U Sask. Huskies men’s hockey team'

Record-setting start to season driving U Sask. Huskies men’s hockey team

That proved to be the right choice as Dutchak starred at the U Sports level and now is an assistant coach with the Huskies program.

This will be her second time looking for an Olympic berth after competing at trials four years ago, however, she feels vastly more prepared this Olympic cycle after retiring from the sport over a two-and-a-half-year span.

“I couldn’t get rid of that bug,” Dutchak said. “I had it, I missed it, I craved it so much. So I came back and I trained for almost two and a half months leading into trials is the window that I had. I got bronze at that one and that was the feeling of I’ve got more in the tank.”

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Since that experience, Dutchak has dedicated her last four years to international competition in the hopes of clinching a spot on Canada’s Olympic team.

In the process, Saskatchewan high-performance wrestling coach Shane Bradley has seen Dutchak turn into a more mature wrestler.

“She’s done everything that she needs to do,” Bradley said. “She’s a great athlete, so it’s just a matter of honing that athleticism into wrestling and it’s really come around. She’s got a really good shot at making this Olympic team.”

That commitment to the mat has made the Saskatoon product even more determined to see her Olympic dreams come to life and has deepened her passion for the sport.

“To push for four years consistently leading into this cycle, it’s a totally different perspective and it’s something that I never knew I could be so hungry for,” Dutchak said.

Dutchak’s path to Paris is a simple one, as she enters the 50-kilogram division needing to win all four or five of her scheduled ladder matches to claim the lone slot open for the national team.

“There’s only one spot,” Dutchak said. “You have to be the best person on that day and that’s what I plan to do.”

According to Bradley, Dutchak is peaking at the perfect time in her training schedule and would not be surprised to see her enter the holidays with a spot in Paris locked up.

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While that will take a lot of variables falling her way, Bradley believes she has the potential to contend for the podium not only at trials but at the Olympic level as well.

“Absolutely 100 per cent, she’s ready to be an Olympian,” Bradley said. “Not only be an Olympian, but be successful at the Olympics.”

Canadian team trials will be held at the Saville Centre at the University of Alberta from Dec. 15 through Dec. 17 with 18 classes of wrestlers competing for Olympic berths.

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