SOFIA, Bulgaria — Canada's Sam Stewart was seconds away from qualifying for her first Olympic Games.
But the 31-year-old from London, Ont., saw her Tokyo dreams disappear with a double leg takedown by Romanian opponent Andreea Beatrice Ana with under five seconds to go at the World Olympic Qualification Tournament on Friday.
After the 4-2 loss, Stewart talked about a tough pre-Olympic season all but derailed by COVID-19.
"I think I wrestled really well, all things considered," Stewart told Wrestling Canada. "It's been really hard to train and prepare for this event with everything that's happened. I definitely think I put my best foot forward."
The winner of Friday's semifinal qualified their country for Tokyo at 53 kilograms.
"This definitely isn't my last kick at the can," Stewart said. "I kept telling myself that this is just another tournament. This is a part of my story, but it doesn't define me as a wrestler."
Tokyo will mark the first time since women's wrestling made its Olympic debut in 2004 that Canada hasn't sent a full complement in every female weight class.
"My heart breaks for the women who have fought through so many challenges since March 2020," reigning Olympic champion Erica Wiebe tweeted. "We will come back stronger."
Wiebe had previously clinched a Tokyo berth at 76 kg.
The World Olympic Qualification Tournament is the last chance to clinch Olympic quota spots for their country.
Stewart opened the day with a quick victory over Marina Rueda Flores of Spain, scoring 10 points to end the match by technical superiority.
She then ousted Hilary Ysaline Honorine of France in another quick win by technical superiority to advance to the semifinals.
Stewart will wrestle for bronze on Saturday.
Earlier Friday, Canadians Jessie MacDonald, Jessica Brouillette, and Linda Morais were eliminated before the semis.
Canadian men Adam MacFadyen, Daniel Coles, Yiannis Narlidis and Thomas Barreiro will wrestle for quota spots Saturday in Greco-Roman.
Canada has already secured two quota spots in women's wrestling, by Wiebe and Danielle Lappage (68 kg), plus two spots on the men's side by Amar Dhesi (125 kg) and Jordie Steen (97 kg). All four spots were clinched at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifying Tournament in March 2020 in Ottawa, one of the last international sports events before the pandemic shuttered the sports world.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2021.
The Canadian Press