An Interview with Carol Huynh

June 1, 2009

Olympic Gold Medalist

Carol Huynh made front page news across the nation and the world when she became the first medalist, (and first gold medalist no less), in the 2008 Olympic Games. A former employee of Talisman Centre, we caught up with her after her historic win to ask a few questions.

Carol Huynh, Gold Medalist of 2008 Olympics and second ever female medallist for Canada in Wrestling

Q. You used to work at Talisman Centre. What was your job here?

A. I was a fitness consultant. I made sure that the equipment was clean and I was there to help members with anything they needed.

Q. What do you enjoy about wrestling?

A. Wrestling is a lot of fun and is really challenging. I enjoy finding ways to overcome these challenges. As an individual sport, wrestling involves a lot of inner reflection and self-determination. However, it is also a team sport. I could not have become the wrestler I am today without the help of my teammates and coaches. I enjoy both aspects of the sport, my closest friends are from the wrestling world and I wouldn't be the person I am today without them.

Q. When did you start wrestling? Who/what was your inspiration? Did anyone in your family wrestle?

A. My older sister was one of the first female wrestlers in my highschool. She encouraged myself and my younger sister to join. I saw that being part of the team improved her self-confidence and she was having a lot of fun and was in great shape. I joined the team with a lot of my friends and my younger sister and had great coaches. They made it so much fun and tried hard to break down any obstacles we would run into coming from a small community with a depressed economy.

Q. Tell us a bit about your training schedule.

A. At the height of my training schedule, I will have wrestling practice 5 times a week, 2hours a day and I will be working with my strength and conditioning coach 4 to 6 times a week for about an hour and a half. My training schedule also includes recovery time, which means time with my chiropractor, massage therapist and physiotherapist, I also make time to see my sport psychologist as well.

Q. What are some of the sacrifices you had to make in order to pursue wrestling at such a high level? Did you ever want to give up?

A. I had to move away from friends and family and my wrestling team at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC. That was a difficult choice for me, but it was the right one because it got me closer to reaching my goals.

I've never really thought about giving up even when I failed to make the Olympic team in 2004, it just made me want it more. There are definitely times when I want to stop training when I feel physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted, but I've learned to keep perspective on those moments and I know that it will pass.

Q. How do you balance your life with your wrestling?

A. I make sure that I have other things going on in my life. I make sure that I have a social life - I hang out with my friends and spend quality time with my husband, I go to see movies and I try to play other sports (I love sports!)

Two people geared up and in active wrestling match

Q. You knew you were going to Beijing fairly early in the year. How did it feel when you qualified for the Olympics?

A. I was pretty darn excited and proud and relieved and a little scared/nervous. A lot of emotions played through me.

Q. How did your training change when you realized you were going to the Olympics?

A. I was able to focus on the opponents I would most likely see at the Olympic Games. Only 16 competitors in my weight class could qualify for the competition, so the field was narrowed considerably and I was able to do a detailed analysis of the top ones with my coaches. My training partners, including my club coach would emulate my opponents so when I stepped out on the mat at the Olympic Games, it was as if I had wrestled these women a hundred times before.

Q. What are some of your favourite non-competition memories of Beijing?

A. The night that I won my gold medal and my friend/teammate, Tonya Verbeek won her bronze medal, we had to do a lot of press. When we were finally able to go to the Canada Olympic House where all our friends and family and others were waiting for us to celebrate with them, it was amazing to see so many people who had waited up to 5 hours for us! It was a great feeling and the whole night was made even more special because I got to share it with the people who I am closest with - my husband, my siblings, parents and friends.

Q. What was the competition like in Beijing?

A. The competition was much like any other, except there was a lot more security, a lot more spectators and a lot more tension!

Q. Describe how you felt when you realized that you had won the gold medal.

A. I felt absolutely elated and shocked - I wanted to laugh, scream and cry all at the same time (and that's what I did!)

Q. How has your life changed now that you are an "Olympic Gold Medalist"?

A. People treat me differently. I have been able to enjoy being a part of some really cool events (Toronto Film Festival, dropping the puck for the Flames and the Maple Leafs and being a part of a Special Olympics Fundraiser for the Canucks, etc.) I am determined to enjoy my 5 minutes of fame and use it to bring positive messages to young people throughout Canada. However, I'm still the same person I was 5 months ago, so sometimes it disturbs me to be treated like a star!

Q. What is next for you and your sport? Will you be in London in 2012?

A. I plan to keep competing and see how far that takes me. It would be wonderful to be able to compete for Canada at another Olympic Games.

If you would like to make use of this article in a manner that does not qualify as "fair dealing", you must first receive permission from Talisman Centre.