Emma Brightwell has options.
Coming off a stellar year on the mats, Brightwell won pretty much everything she could in women's wrestling in 2012: a gold medal at the OUA championship, a gold medal at the CIS championship (hosted here at Lakehead), Most Outstanding Female Wrestler of the CIS championship, OUA Woman of Influence, and Lakehead University's Female Athlete of the Year.
Impressive, yes, but exponentially so when you consider that she just started wrestling again in late 2011 after being sidelined for almost two years.
"It was exciting to go from not even being able to walk to winning the CIS," Brightwell said. "I was pretty emotional after my last match."
Nevertheless, her successes were overshadowed somewhat by the fact that she definitely wouldn't make it to the Olympics this year, a goal she had from an early age. Her grandfather was an internationally known wrestler, her father was an Olympian, and she seemed destined to be too. But a succession of injuries – a strained MCL in her right knee, a partially torn ACL in her left knee, and finally torn muscles in her back – kept her from reaching that dream. The wrestling trials for the Canadian Olympic team took place in December, just when she was getting back to practice.
"It was still a little bit hard for me (while the trials were going on)," Brightwell said. "In high school, these were always the trials that I was going to go for. I was so excited. But, I have to keep in mind everything that is in the future for me."
Part of that future, it turned out, was becoming Lakehead University Student Union (LUSU) president for 2012-13. Brightwell found out that she won the election while competing for the OUA championship in February. It was a close election – at one point late in the evening, she was down by 20 votes – but by the early morning hours, it was clear she had won. It was proof, if she needed it, that she had other opportunities.
"It's taught me that you can't stick with one goal your whole life, you have to modify and sometimes you have to change. Your life's not over if one goal doesn't happen," Brightwell said.
It's still early in her tenure, so Brightwell hasn't considered too much what will come next. But, as mentioned above, she has options – including two more years of OUA eligibility in the sport that she loves to compensate for time lost to injury. The 2016 Olympics are on the horizon, and even the 2020 Olympics wouldn't be a stretch. A second year as LUSU president, working towards a degree in education, and perhaps coaching wrestling herself are all possibilities in the coming years. She graduated this year with an HBA in Sociology, which will also open doors when she needs them.
For now though, she's focused on the present.
"I found a life outside of wrestling, and I'm pretty happy with what's going on now," Brightwell said.