Graduand Danielle Lappage punches her ticket to 2016 Olympic Games
By Steve Frost
Danielle Lappage, a former Simon Fraser University Clan athlete who successfully defended her SFU criminology master's thesis in September, earned Canada’s first wrestling berth in the 2016 Summer Olympics on Dec. 5 after defeating No.1-ranked Braxton Stone-Papadopoulos 2-0 in their best-of-three final.
Lappage, a four-time All-American and three-time champion with the Clan women’s wrestling program, punched her ticket for the Games in Rio just 14 months after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee.
“I don’t think there is a word to describe how I’m feeling right now. More than happy, more than ecstatic. Honestly, I could die a happy woman … after the Olympics, of course,” Lappage told the Edmonton Journal. “This is the highest goal I’ve had in all aspects of my life and to know that I’m going is absolutely incredible.”
Lappage scored six straight victories, including two victories over Stone-Papadopoulos, the number-one seed and individual who qualified in the 63- kilogram weight class for Canada at last year’s world championships.
Lappage impressively fought back from the pool and through the third- and second-ranked athletes to meet the national champion Stone-Papadopoulos in the ladder final. The two matches were hard-fought with Lappage winning 6-4 and 8-2.
Lappage was overcome with excitement following the win.
“I have never felt this way before,” says Lappage. “I felt confident and determined because it was a long road to get here. I didn’t wrestle last year because I was injured, so it feels incredible to win.”
“I’ve been trying to get here for over a year now, for this single tournament… I can’t believe I can now be nominated to compete at the Olympics.”
Lappage, the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medalist, tore her ACL in practice just a month after she placed fifth at the 2014 world championships.
An SFU criminology graduand, Lappage used her year of recovery from injury to pursue a master’s in criminology at SFU.
During her SFU undergraduate collegiate wrestling career, Lappage was a four-time finalist and three-time champion in the Women's Collegiate Wrestling Association and was named Co-Female Athlete of the Year in her final year. She won a Junior World Championship in 2011 and she has won World University and Pan American Games titles as well.
“Danielle is an almost a perfect example of who we want our student athletes to be,” says SFU women’s wrestling head coach Mike Jones. “She is competitive, she is resilient and she is a terrific student. I am proud that she will be representing Canada at the Olympics.”
After three days of top-calibre Freestyle and Greco-Roman competition, the Canadian Wrestling Team Trials concluded with Clan alumni Justina DiStasio named as n alternate at 75 KG and Arjun Gill winning the 97-KG weight class. Gill will be Canada’s representative to try to qualify in her weight class for the Olympics at the next Pan American Games.