Olds Olympic wrestler takes law into her hands

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A year ago Danielle Lappage was preparing for the Olympics. This year she’s preparing for law school.

The Olympic wrestler, who faced a crushing withdrawal from her first match in Rio last August after a hamstring tear, was accepted into the University of Calgary’s law program and will begin this fall.

A SIGN

In 2012, after finishing her undergrad in criminology, Lappage wrote the LSAT, chasing original plans to become a lawyer. She applied to the law programs at the University of Calgary and the University of British Columbia.

She didn’t make the cut for either law school, but was accepted to a master’s program in criminology at Simon Fraser University, her academic and athletic home for the previous four years. During that time she started considering policing as a career. But after she got hurt at the Olympics, everything was up in the air.

Last fall, while she was researching and applying for different jobs, she learned that her LSAT score lasted five years – hers would expire in 2017. So on a whim, she sent out a single law school application to the U of C. “I’m just going to throw it out to Calgary,” she said. “And then see what happens.” She was so sure that she wouldn’t get in that she didn’t even tell her mother she had applied. “The thing that makes me feel like I have to try at least, is when I put my application in … I’m like, if I get in it’s a sign that I have to try it,” she said.

“I literally said that to myself. And then I got an acceptance letter.”

TWO OPTIONS

But the decision to head to Calgary wasn’t so simple – she also had another tantalizing option on the table: coaching at SFU.

Last fall, after her injury, she took an assistant coaching position at SFU. And this spring, after the women’s wrestling head coach announced his retirement, she was given the chance to take over.

“He’s retiring after 40 years, so it’s a position that doesn’t come up very often,” she said.

But her instincts told her to head to Calgary.

“I don’t think that I am closing a door, I think I am opening one. Which I guess is one of the main reasons why I did choose this option.”

SLOW AND STEADY

It’s still too early to know what the future holds for Lappage as far as wrestling goes, but for now it’s still in the plan. The University of Calgary isn’t exactly a dud when it comes to its wrestling program – that’s where Erica Wiebe worked her way up to Olympic gold.

For the duration of her competitive career, Lappage has trained with SFU’s wrestling team, and over the past year she has been the assistant women’s coach. “It’s sad because I have been with the same training partners and the same coaches for nine years,” she said.

But Lappage said she is looking forward to training with the Calgary coaches, who she also worked with in the lead up to the games.

“I’m excited for a change, I think it will re-excite me,” said Lappage. “We really get along and I am excited for some coaching, some new input.”

As far as her injury, things seem to be progressing well. Her doctor told her last week that he was surprised and impressed by how well her leg is doing. Meanwhile, she has recently been able to get off the stationary bikes and out of the gym, and start working wrestling technique again.

“I am confident that it will keep improving and that I will be able to compete again,” she said, although she said she knows it’s a waiting game. “I won’t know for sure until it happens, it’s kinda like a wait and see type of thing.”

So, slow and steady, but does that mean a run for 2020 is coming into focus? “I think regardless, I think 2020, thinking about that and putting that pressure on myself is a little overwhelming,” said Lappage. “I’ll make the yearly plan, and depending on how I am doing and if I still love it, then I’ll keep going, and if not then I won’t.”

For now, she said, the target is national championships next March, and she said she wasn’t thinking much beyond. A lot of it will also depend on her studies, she said, and how they fit in with training. It will be a challenging schedule – workouts twice daily, one early before classes, the other in the evening before homework.

“It’s gonna be a really tough time, but I think I can do it.”

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