Wrestling Olympics medalist Carol Huynh graced the International Women’s Day event at the Seniors Centre March 8, sharing her story of how she fought to participate in women’s wrestling
Early in her wrestling career, Huynh said, she faced many obstacles getting into the male-dominated sport. She attributes her success to inspirational women she met along the way as well as men who fought the status quo.
“It really got me thinking though, about all those fierce women that came before me, that battle against chauvinism and fought for their right to be on the mats,” she said. “I also thought of the men that ignored those naysayers and helped to develop women’s wrestling, because without them, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to live my dream, to compete for my country at the Olympics Games.”
“We all have a part to play in the future of girls everywhere, however big or small a part that may be, whether you are male … or female, whether you’re young, or the young at heart,” she said.
She pointed to some of her inspirations, including her hometown’s mayor, Hazelton’s Alice Maitland. She also found strength from within her family.
“My mom is an amazing person, super cute … very positive, she’s wise and she’s tough as nails,” she said. “My mother, especially, supported and encouraged me in all different endeavours.”
Her “strong-willed and fierce” elder sister also pushed for gender parity at home.
“My dad was very traditional when I was growing up, and he didn’t let his girls do all that much, and his boys had a little more freedom for them, so that really irked my sister,” said Huynh. “She really fought for her right to do this or that … but I would see that.”
That sister also participated in wrestling, which became the inspiration for Huynh. She met Joe Sullivan, a women’s wrestling coach and advocate.
She found her calling and went to wrestle for Simon Fraser University, where she met Mike Jones.
“He was a force in promoting women’s wrestling throughout B.C.,” she said. “He supported the women on our team even though the university itself didn’t even recognize us as a team.”
Huynh said Jones was crucial in propelling her forward by believing in her, and sending her to international competitions and training camps.
Her SFU teammates also became integral to pushing for an ideological change at the university.
“They made sure that they were working as hard or harder than the men, because they knew that they had something to prove. They knew that there was a ton of people out there that looked at women’s wrestling and thought, ‘You guys don’t belong here.’”
Over time, Huynh has seen advances in gender parity in sport. She points towards the Olympics’ having a Women in Sport Commission and having greater inclusion of women into executive boards. She also lauds United World Wrestling, amateur wrestling’s governing body, for having a president that promotes womens’ wrestling.