Supporting Canadian Athletes

Greg Edgelow

In 1996, the board of the Canadian Athletes Association began searching for a more marketable name. Olympic Wrestler Greg Edgelow came up with the idea of AthletesCAN and it stuck.The new name was just one of the many contributions Greg made in eight years as a volunteer with the organization (1994-2001), which culminated with him being elected chair in 2000.

“I guess it was my time,” says Greg, of running for the position. “I had a long history with the organization so I knew where we’d been and I believed I could help us continue to get where we needed to go.”

Born in Edmonton, Alta, Greg grew up in the Okanagan in B.C. He began wrestling in Grade 8 after hearing an announcement about after-school practice.

“My friend and I were picked on a lot and I thought wrestling would be a great way to fight back,” says Greg, who ranked second in the city in his weight class after only one year. “I was a tough kid with a will to win. Those factors helped me overcome my lack of natural talent.”

Despite his success, Greg’s early career wasn’t easy. His coach had never wrestled before and the only high school in town did not have a wrestling program. But that didn’t deter Greg. He traveled every day by bus to his old junior high and wrestled with the rugby coach because there weren’t other athletes his size.

By Grade 12, Greg was winning most of the events he entered, including age category nationals. He set his sights on wrestling at Simon Fraser University (SFU), where he graduated with degrees in psychology and kinesiology.

At the end of his university career Greg was dominating his competition, winning both the national collegiate championships and the Canadian junior championships in his final year. He then embarked on a national team career that saw him win six senior national championships between 1987 and 1998 and bring home a bronze from the 1990 Goodwill Games and two from the 1991 Pan American Games. He competed in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 where he lost in the third round to the Russian who became Olympic champion. The highlight of Greg’s career was when he won gold at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria in front of a home crowd.

“It was a great moment,” says Greg, who retired soon after.

But Greg’s retirement lasted only three years as he was lured back into wrestling by the 1998 World Championships in Iran.

“Wrestling in Iran is like hockey in Canada,” he says of wanting to experience the atmosphere of competing in that country. “I really wanted to go there.”

So Greg started training again and six months later won the national championships and six months after that, headed to Iran. He lost in the third round to the Iranian who went on to win the championships, but Greg says the experience was amazing.

“The guy I lost to was a national hero and they played my match with him over and over and over again,” says Greg. “Everywhere I went I was recognized and everyone was really respectful. People don’t understand wrestling here. My entire career I had to explain what I did. Everyone assumed it was pro wrestling.”

It was after Iran that Greg retired for good.

Greg first got involved in athlete leadership while competing at the 1994 Commonwealth Games when he volunteered to do some appearances on behalf of the Canadian mission staff.

“I was fortunate to have the Chef de Mission Judy Kent and Assistant Chef Margie Schuett ask me to be involved at the Commonwealth Games, not just as the competitor, but as a volunteer,” says Greg.

Soon after the Games, Greg was approached by Ann Peel to sit on the AthletesCAN Board of Directors as the Commonwealth Games Association representative. He served in this role until 1997 before taking on the roles of elections coordinator and newsletter editor in 1997 and 1998 and then returned to the board as an elected member in 1999. Greg was elected chair in 2000.

“I believed I could contribute and I felt I could do the job,” says Greg of his decision to run for chair. “I liked the challenge of it and I’ve always thrived on taking on new challenges.”

At the time he was chair, AthletesCAN had several irons in the fire and Greg worked to keep those fires burning. This included working toward increases in athlete assistance; putting athlete agreements in place; working to get athletes on boards; mentoring athlete reps and athlete councils; expanding the Sport Solution and facilitating the new Investors Group Amateur Athletes Fund bursary.

“I was building off of what previous chairs and boards had been working on to put the sport community in touch with the needs and rights of athletes and to make sure that athletes were part of the decision-making process,” says Greg.

Greg stepped down as chair of AthletesCAN in 2001.

Greg’s involvement with AthletesCAN stirred up a passion in him that has led to a 14-year resume of volunteerism. Donating his time in the sport community and in other areas, Greg has sat on over 40 different committees, has been chair of 12, and has sat on five different boards at one time. He says the learning, mentoring, and networking opportunities, and just knowing you’re contributing and affecting change, make being involved invaluable.

“My years of volunteering have been my masters and my PhD,” says Greg. “What I’ve learned in terms of sociology and business… volunteering is a huge investment.”

And he’d like to see more athletes make that investment to help themselves, their sports and their fellow athletes.

“Athletes are one of the stakeholders in the sport community and in any sector when decisions are being made you need input from your stakeholders,” Greg says. “Athletes need to be a part of the process and not absolve themselves from that responsibility. They need to stop complaining and take action because it’s easier to accept the outcomes when you were involved in the decisions.”

Greg’s hopes for AthletesCAN in the future are simple.

“I hope AthletesCAN stays true to its core values, adds relevance and continues to look at new and existing ways to move forward the agenda of keeping athletes involved,” says Greg, who admits some of his fondest memories in non-competitive sport are from AthleteCAN’s Forums. “And most importantly, I hope it continues to exist. AthletesCAN has to prove that it doesn’t just provide value to athletes but to everyone—Sport Canada, MSOs and NSOs.”

Greg has lived in Vancouver for the last 25 years and currently works as the Executive Director of the WCFN, a non-profit western Canadian association in the natural health food sector, located on the campus of the University of British Columbia (UBC). Greg remains involved in the Canadian sport community as a board member of the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance and a Bell Community Sport Fund application adjudicator. He works with the SFU and UBC wrestling clubs at different times throughout the year and has an endowed scholarship fund (he and his father created it 10 years ago for university wrestlers at SFU) worth almost $25,000.

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