Chinese Canadian, wrestler Carol Huynh, wins Canada's first gold medal in Beijing Olympics

Carol Huynh, Hazelton BC-born Chinese-Vietnamese-Canadian wins Olympic Gold, breaking Canada's medal drought

It seems ironic that while Canadian media has made much about Chinese-born Canadian athletes competing for Canada in fencing and table tennis, it was Canadian-born Carol Huynh from Hazelton BC, that wins Canada's first gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  And it was also

There also have been stories in the media, both English and Chinese language, about where loyalties lie amongst Chinese-Canadians when cheering for Olympic medals.  While it is understandable that recent immigrants will still retain emotional ties to their homeland, for born-in-Canada ethnic Chinese, there is clearly only one choice – Canada!

Huynh's father was born in China, and her her mother is Vietnamese.  It's a heart-rending story about how the family became refugees 30 years ago, and were sponsored by the United Church and were placed in Hazelton, where Huynh was born and raised.  She later attended Simon Fraser University for both academic and athletic study.

Many SFU students have been Olympic athletes, and I have been priveleged to meet some of them such as Justin Abdou, Greg Edgelow, Chris Wilson, Leah Pells, Jay Triano, and padder Kamini Jain.  I have also met coaches Mike Renney, Alison McNeil, Jay Triano, Mike Jones, Dave McKay and Dr. David Cox – my sports psychologist professor.  Carol's coach at SFU was Mike Jones, with whom I also spent some time on the SFU Wrestling team during my SFU time.  Mike is a former Canadian national wrestling coach.  Dave McKay from SFU is the present Canadian wrestling coach.

Hazelton really is proud of Carol, and even held fund-raisers to help her parents fly to China, so they could attend the Olympic Games to see their daughter compete.
Hazelton thrilled for Huynh's wrestling gold

Olympic Games

Wrestling – Profile

Simply golden

B.C. native Carol Huynh used her lightning-fast attack to win gold in Beijing

Canada's Carol Huynh poses with the gold medal she won Saturday in the women's freestyle wrestling 48-kilogram weight class. Canada's Carol Huynh poses with the gold medal she won Saturday in the women's freestyle wrestling 48-kilogram weight class. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Two months before the Beijing Games, Canada’s national team coach used the word “dangerous” to describe Carol Huynh.

Looking at the five-foot-one, 115-pound wrestler, it seemed hard to believe.

“Other coaches who know Carol, they’re scared of her as a wrestler,” Leigh Vierling said. “They really are.”

Those who saw her win Canada’s first gold medal of the Olympic Games will know why.

The 27-year-old Hazelton, B.C., native, known for her lightning-fast
attack and quickness on the mat, went at her opponent immediately in
the 48-kilogram weight class final on Saturday.

Huynh didn’t think about the fact that she was up against the
reigning and three-time world champion. She didn’t think about the fact
that Japan’s Chiharu Icho had been to the Games before, had won silver
in Athens.

Icho won almost every international event since the Athens Games,
while Huynh had only two senior championships to her credit, most
recently the 2007 Pan-American Games. Icho was the odds-on favourite to

No self-doubt

But Huynh attacked, and led from start to finish.

“I knew I wanted to go in with supreme confidence in my abilities
and not doubting myself one second,” a smiling Huynh said after the
medal ceremony Saturday. “That's what I did, and I wrestled the match
of my life, and it was awesome.”

After the referee held her arm up to indicate she had won, Huynh
buried her face in her hands and then ran over to hug her coach.
Members of the crowd passed her a Canadian flag and then Vierling
hoisted her on his shoulders and paraded her around the China
Agricultural University Gymnasium.

She wasn't the favourite, but it was clear early in the gold medal match that Huynh had the edge.

She didn’t even let Icho get on the board in the first period en
route to her 4-0, 2-1 victory. It was her fourth straight win Saturday,
a run that saw her surrender only four points, compared to the 19 she

That’s typical for Huynh when she's performing to her potential, her coach says.

“When she's wrestling her best, she is very, very quick, very tricky
to wrestle,” Vierling said. “People have a hard time getting a handle
on her. Carol is someone you can't relax on, because the second you do,
she'll pick you apart.”

Despite her abilities, Huynh's first reaction to her victories in both the semis and finals was to cover her mouth in awe.

“I'm just, I'm speechless,” she said after her semifinal win
Saturday. “I don't know what to say. I've been dreaming of this moment
for a long time and it's here. I'm just so proud to be Canadian.”

Family members watching

later she became the first Canadian woman to win Olympic gold. She did
so in front of a crowd that included her husband, her siblings and her

“I knew they were basically right in the front row there, and
knowing that in the back of my mind was such a good feeling,” said
Huynh, smiling. “This year hasn’t been all that different from training
for worlds until I came here, and seeing everybody here, I think this
is the big difference. There’s so many people here and it’s just
amazing to see such support.”

Nowhere has she felt more support than in Hazelton, where
fundraisers were held in her honour to assist with her Olympic

“I just wanted to say thank you guys so much,” she said, speaking to the people of Hazelton. “You basically raised an Olympian.”

As the Canadian anthem played for the first time at the Beijing
Games, Huynh stood on the podium singing, the gold medal around her
neck, tears in her eyes.

Then there was no wiping the smile off her face.

“This is unbelievable,” she said, looking at the crowd. “I’m having such a fabulous time. This is so cool.”

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