Wrestlers begin long journey to Rio

Published 23 October 2015 (AEDT)

Farzad Tarash at the London 2012 Olympic Games © 2012 Getty Images

WRESTLING: It’s a long, tough slog for Australian wrestlers to get to next year’s Rio Olympics, with their journey beginning this weekend in Canberra.

Success there will open the door to the Oceania Championships in New Zealand next year.

Success there could see them on a plane to Algeria for the African/Oceania Continental Olympic qualifiers.

The Canberra Cup will bring together the best freestyle and Greco Roman wresters in Australia.

Wrestling Australia High Performance manager, Alan Landy, says wrestlers who don’t perform this weekend will have their work cut out getting to Brazil.

“All of the Olympic hopefuls will be there,” he said.

“To cement your place in that shadow squad for New Zealand, you really have to compete this weekend and place well.”

Among those under pressure to perform this weekend will be 2015 World Championship squad members, Connor Evans and Talgat Ilyasov, competing in fresstyle events, and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ivan Popov, competing in the Greco competition.

Landy is also tipping big things from Pia Rosenkranz, former European junior wrestling star is ready to take her first steps toward representing Australia at the Rio Olympics.

German-born Perth-based Rosenkranz will compete as an Australian for the first time this weekend at the Canberra Cup wrestling tournament - the first stage on the path to Rio - after waiting four years for her citizenship.

Her coach, Wrestling Australia's high performance manager, Alan Landy, says she is "Australia's best female prospect by far."

"She's got a fabulous work ethic, she's very professional and she's a tough lady despite there being nothing of her at 53 kilos," he said.

"She's wrestling really well. She's fit, she's healthy and has a good mindset."

Landy said former European junior runner-up Rosenkranz always had the Olympics in her sights, despite dipping her toes into an MMA career in the interim.

"I think it was a way for her to keep interested while she was waiting to be naturalised and she did quite well."

The top two athletes in each division at next year’s Oceania Championships will earn the chance to go to Africa.

And while Algiers will not be the last chance for Australia to qualify wrestlers for Rio, with two more international qualifiers scheduled, Landy believes it will be the most achievable.

“It’s probably our best chance of qualifying athletes,” he said.

“There are two other world qualifying events, but they will probably have stronger fields than the African qualifiers.”

The Canberra Cup will take place at the AIS this Saturday and Sunday.

AAP/ROSS SOLLY for WRESTLING AUSTRALIA

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