Among all of the high-performance athletes that have chosen to make Whistler their home, Nolan Deinum may very well be the first wrestler.
The London, Ont., native has some impressive credentials on the mat from years past, including a juvenile Canadian Championship title in the 54-kilogram class, as well as an OFSSA (Ontario high school) gold medal at 57.5 kg.
But despite those promising victories, Deinum has come to Whistler hoping to get his wrestling career back on track.
"By moving to Whistler, I'm getting a fresh start and a new mindset, and I think that's very key in sport," said the 21-year-old.
Deinum has spent much of the past few years recovering from a list of injuries that seemingly has no end, and has derailed nearly all of the momentum he had built up.
Some of them, he's been able to overcome — Deinum won his OFSSA title while competing with a broken growth plate in his arm. But as the ailments piled up — a torn labrum, injuries to his clavicle, a broken nose, displaced jaw among them — he was forced to take time away from the sport and only got back to it last year.
"People question me all the time, asking, 'Why? Why do that to your body?' But it's definitely worth it," he said. "The glory when you win nationals or something like that is totally worth it. That's why I want to get back at it, because it's one of the best feelings you can get, bottom line."
Deinum is a product of the London-Western Wrestling Club, which is affiliated with the University of Western Ontario Mustangs squad. So from very early on, he has been a student of Mustangs' head coach Ray Takahashi, a three-time Olympian and one of the country's most respected wrestling minds.
"He ran into some bad luck — different injuries and things like that," said Takahashi. "He's kind of had a tough go. But he's got some pretty good drive, and obviously, talent."
Deinum had a spot on the Mustangs roster for the 2013-14 season, but opted for a change of scenery and headed for B.C.
"He would have been a main player for us and helped us out for sure," said Takahashi. "But I wasn't disappointed that he headed out west, because I think it's good for him in the long run."
Mentally, Deinum has always been ready to get back to competing, but his body is now following suit.
"This is the healthiest I've been since I was 12," he said. "This is the longest break I've ever taken. My body has never had the time to heal. But I'm good to compete now."
The latest challenge has been finding a place to train. He's been invited to do some work with the Simon Fraser University Clan, and has been getting in some weight training at the Whistler Creek Athletic Club, where he's employed. But without carded-athlete status or a nomination from a provincial sport organization, he's not able to access the ideal facilities at the High-Performance Centre gym at the Whistler Athletes' Centre. Takahashi wrote Canadian Sport Institute-Pacific staff advocating for Deinum to be granted access to the gym, but to no avail.
"When I was a junior and going to nationals, I had the carding points," said Deinum. "Then I broke my body and I lost everything. I had to take a year off and start over again."
But Deinum has no doubt he can return to racking up strong results, regain his carding status and step back on a national championship podium.
"I know I can be the best, and that's why it's frustrating," he said.
"As long as you tell yourself you're the best, you can do it. I truly believe that."
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