Fighting for the Olympic dream

jade dufour
Jade Dufour didn’t have an Olympic dream until grade 10, and now that’s her goal. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Stingers wrestler Jade Dufour is aiming to win a world title

Most kids play soccer growing up. For Concordia Stingers wrestler Jade Dufour, that didn’t really cut it.

“My parents saw that I was kind of done with it, so they figured they had to find something else,” she said. “They looked into karate. Since then, I’ve always been involved in physical contact sports.”

From mixed martial arts (MMA) to Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Dufour’s parents wanted their children to learn how to defend themselves. “Thank God, because I wouldn’t mess with me or my brother,” Dufour said. “I was already used to being hit and being put into awkward positions.”

Making that transition from MMA to wrestling did take some time for Dufour because of the varying techniques and rules. However, once she finally committed to wrestling in high school in Windsor, Ont., she fell in love.

Even though she loved the sport, she hadn’t considered the “Olympic dream” to be a possibility until grade 10, when she attended the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que., and met Martine Dugrenier, a three-time world champion wrestler from Montreal. Dugrenier is now a coach with the Stingers.

“She had come down to Windsor to train with us, and a few of [my teammates] stayed at my house,” Dufour said. “Martine was in my room. This was right after she had competed at the Olympics in London. I was freaking out. She asked, ‘Hey do want to start wrestling at the next level?’ She thought I had potential so I should continue.”

Dufour competed in the 43-kilogram weight class and won gold at that 2013 Canada Summer Games.

jade dufour
Jade Dufour said winning bronze at the 2016 World Junior Wrestling Championship has been her proudest moment as a Stinger. Photo by Brianna Thicke.

When it came time to choosing a university, Dufour said she didn’t hesitate.

“Concordia had the program I liked, which is exercise science, but I loved the technicality of the wrestling club,” Dufour said.

She liked the individual attention that head coach Victor Zilberman put into their training. Working on individual performances while still training as a collective team was something that separated Concordia from other programs she visited.

As an exercise science student, Dufour said she feels like she has used her knowledge in the classroom and has been able to translate it to her work on the mat. Her interest in the topic really began when she fractured her ankle in high school. Dufour went through her physiotherapy rehab, and thought healing a body was interesting. She then enrolled in a kinesiology class in her senior year of high school.

“I can relate to this so much because I am an athlete,” the third-year Stinger said. “I feel like I know what’s happening to my body better. I understand how to cope and prevent injuries myself. The two go together nicely.”

Looking back on three years with the Stingers wrestling team, she counts winning bronze at the 2016 World Junior Wrestling Championship in Macon, France, as one of her proudest moments. Not because of the medal, but because of how she feels she responded to adversity after losing her first match of the tournament.

“I had to do a 360-degree turn in my attitude,” Dufour said. “Getting over that loss and the fact that I was able to get myself prepared and in that zone—I didn’t know if I was going to be able to wrestle. It happened, you can’t go back and change it, and to be honest, I wouldn’t change it.”

Even though this is her third season with the Stingers, outside of school, this is Dufour’s first season wrestling in the senior division against other wrestlers from across the country. In March, Dufour will be competing at the National Championship in Montreal.

At the senior level, there are no beginners. Every athlete wants to make it to the Olympics, and every athlete is competing for a spot on the national team.

“Hopefully I’ll do well in my first senior year,” Dufour said. “To make the Canadian national team against all of the kids who have been wrestling for 16 plus years, it would be something else. I’ve been on the world team at the junior level quite a few times.”

To make the senior roster and join Stingers teammate Laurence Beauregard, Dufour needs to make a smooth transition from the junior division to senior. Doing so would require her to refine the technical elements of her game. In the 48-kilogram division she usually competes in, Dufour is almost always one of the smaller competitors.

“I’m wrestling people who are bigger and stronger, but if I put all the effort in, correct my mistakes and basically give it my all, [I could] become a successful senior athlete and not just a kid who was good at the junior [level],” she said, adding: “I want that Olympic dream.”

Dufour talked about what she needs to practice this season, including attention to detail and total focus during her training. “I’m going to try my [hardest] to make the team,” she said. “However, I still have work to do. I’m not just aiming for a national title; I’m aiming for a world title.”

Main photo by Alex Hutchins.

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