Proud in pink

Kenn Oliver
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Avalon wrestling team makes anti-bullying fashion statement with brightly coloured singlets

The wrestlers from the Avalon region at this week’s Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games in Clarenville are not the first, and likely won’t be the last, to compete in bright pink ring attire.

valon region wrestler Josh Cole (pink) of Colliers competes against Team Labrador’s Mishkushish Pinette of Sheshatshiu Monday at the 2014 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games in Clarenville. The Avalon team, and a select few wrestlers from St. John’s/North and Mount Pearl/South, chose to wear pink singlets in support of the Stand Up to Bullying initiative. — Photo by Kenn Oliver/The Telegram

Professional wrestlers Bret “The Hitman” Hart and his tag-team partner Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart donned pink singlets throughout their World Wrestling Federation careers, along with noted heels Rick Martel and Adrian Adonis.


Support for Stand Up

But the Avalon team, coached by Roncalli Central High School teacher and provincial girls’ team coach Noel Strapp, chose to wear pink to support the Stand Up to Bullying campaign, not as a fashion statement.

“A lot of the boys aren’t too comfortable wearing singlets. They’re tight and sometimes unflattering suits, but it’s part of the sport… you’ve gotta wear it,” Strapp explains, adding that some of his wrestlers didn’t want to wear singlets of any colour for fear of being teased by other non-wrestlers from their school.

“So we said, if you feel uncomfortable wearing a singlet or afraid you’re going to get made fun of, let’s make a statement.”

They made it public Saturday during weigh-ins at Riverside Elementary in nearby Shoal Harbour, site of the wrestling competition.

“At first there were a couple of snickers and laughs, but when we told them what it was about, that it was an anti-bullying stand we were making, everybody thought it was really cool,” the coach, who joined his charges in ordering a pink singlet of his own, said. “We’ve been getting a lot of attention.”


Came on board

Moreover, a few wrestlers from St. John’s/North and Mount Pearl/South came on board and also opted to wear the same uniform this week.

Strapp says the idea to wear the risqué colour started out as more of a joke between he and some fellow coaches over the last couple of years.

“After our AGM a few weeks ago, a few of the coaches there talked about some teams at the Games having their own personalized singlets.”

Strapp was quickly in contact with Montreal-based Sport Olympia, a company that specializes in wrestling products, inquiring about the availability of pink singlets.

They had them. But, not surprisingly, only in a female cut.


Jumped on board

“I went back to my team and mentioned the idea and they loved it. They all jumped on board.”

They liked the idea so much that when the school held its Pink Shirt Day last Friday, Strapp’s entire team begged him to let them wear the new singlets to school.

“We’re a really tight-knit group, so for anybody who knows my team and the way we are, I don’t think they’re overly surprised with us wearing pink singlets.”

For wrestlers Patrick O’Leary and Nathan Hart, both 17-year-olds from Holyrood, this week’s Games mark the first time they’ve worn a singlet of any colour.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t like them, it was really my style,” says Hart, an 83-kilogram grappler.

“I just never got around to getting one,” adds 73kg competitor O’Leary, “So if you’re going go for it, you’ve gotta go big.”

Neither were concerned with being teased by classmates or fellow wrestlers.

“I thought it was a great idea,” says Hart. “I wasn’t worried at all.”

And the female cuts?

“It kind of accentuates some things,” O’Leary admits, holding back a devilish grin.

The original plan was to have the words Stand Up — which, coincidentally, is also the term used for the wrestling technique of regaining your footing during a match — embroidered on the back of the singlets, but the order was delayed which didn’t leave enough time before the Games.

They hope to have the embroidery done in time for some tournaments off the island over the next the month.

“I can’t wait to show up off the island and see the reaction,” says Strapp.

“If you want to make a point, you need that awe factor.

“Stereotypically, people think wrestlers are supposed to be big, gronky, macho guys where it’s a combat sport.

“But we’re making a statement that we’re not uncomfortable being out here looking like this.”

Twitter: @telykenn

Organizations: World Wrestling Federation, Sport Olympia

Geographic location: Shoal Harbour, Mount Pearl, Holyrood

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