Hazelton-raised Carol Huynh with her gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. (CP photo)

Hazelton’s Olympic hero Huynh into Hall of Fame

Carol Huynh gets inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and for soon-to-be Canada Sports Hall of Famer Carol Huynh, the saying rings true.

Over a month ago, the Hazelton native found out she was going to be inducted. On April 19, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame released the name of six athletes, one team, and two sport builders who will make up the Class of 2017.

The two-time Olympic medallist in wrestling was among the names.

This high honour came as a surprise to Huynh, who explained she heard rumours about being inducted but never thought much of it.

“It was very flattering to be thought of and to be thought of among all those other amazing people,” she said.

But as the rumours became true, Huynh still couldn’t believe she was a part of the group.

“I’m just normal, I’m just so normal to me and I know all these other people, people with some pretty amazing stories and backgrounds,” she said.

All the athletes being inducted were invited out to a dinner and Huynh said this is what changed her view.

“I think that that process was really cool because we had dinner and we were all just chatting and they are all ordinary people too. So I kind of realized in that moment that yeah, this is why Canada has their sports hall of fame because I think it’s their chance to showcase some sporting heroes and inspire people,” she said.

This is something that has stuck with her.

“A lot of these sports heroes or whatever you want to call them are just ordinary people that happened to do something extraordinary,” she said.

And Huynh is one of them. Huynh was born in Hazelton, the first Canadian-born child after her family emigrated as refugees from Vietnam.

“My family was sponsored by the United Church in Hazelton. You know there’s that saying it takes a village to raise a child, it’s the same kind of concept. It takes networks of people that support you in order for a champion to be created. It all started when the United Church sponsored my family to come to Hazelton,” she said.

For Huynh, lucky events like this were what lead her to where she is now.

“One of those lucky things is that I ended up being born in Hazelton, B.C. and there happened to be a wrestling coach there that had a lot of experience and was a big advocate for women’s wrestling,” she said.

Huynh’s older sister started wrestling before she did, and it was one of the reasons she wanted to do it. This lead them to travel all around the province. But this wouldn’t be possible without help.

“There is no way we could afford to do that without the support of the community in Hazelton,” she said.

In 2013, Huynh’s career in wrestling was threatened after hearing the news that the sport would be removed from the Olympics.

At the time, she was in Toronto when she received the message. However, she joined the movement of people around the world who were rallying in support of keeping the sport.

They put together a team of representatives to speak on behalf of those in the sport to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

“They interview sports that are vying for a spot on the Olympic program two Olympics away,” she said.

There were eight different sports that went to this meeting in St. Petersburg, and Huynh was among the wrestling representatives.

“We were in Russia and we had to do an interview, vying for one spot against eight other countries, and after they did that they narrowed it down to three sports and we happen to be one of them. Then we had to go to Buenos Aires in Argentina in September 2013,” she said.

This was the final place where they decided which sport and location would be chosen for the next Olympics.

“We went to this thing in Argentina and got down to the decision time and we actually beat out all the other sports. That was fantastic, a weight lifted off the shoulders. We saved the dreams of millions of young kids out there, ” she said.

Huynh said that entire year was an eye opener for her.

“As an athlete, I didn’t really know anything that happens behind the scene so going through all that was crazy,” she said.

As of right now, Huynh is an assistant coach at the Dinos Wrestling Club at the University of Calgary and is also the Next Generation Coach at the club.

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