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Burnaby's Justina Di Stasio captures wrestling gold at 2022 Commonwealth Games

Di Stasio beat Nigeria's Hannah Rueben to finish at the top of the podium.
Screenshot 2022-08-08 123336
Burnaby's Justina Di Stasio has another gold medal. This time, it came on the Birmingham, England mat in one of the world's top competitions among Commonwealth countries.

Justina Di Stasio is golden once again. 

The Burnaby product captured gold on Saturday (Aug. 6) in Brimingham, England at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in the 76 kg women's freestyle wrestling category. 

Di Stasio was matched up against Hannah Rueben of Nigeria in the final, who would go up 1-0 at the break. 

In the second half, the 29-year-old was able to grab a four-point takedown to take the 4-1 lead. She would only give up one more point and captured gold with a 4-2 win. 

"We had a gameplan [for the gold medal match], I am trying to work on my two-on-ones and adjusting on the fly. Sometimes I abandon my gameplan but in that match when I heard my coach say something, I listened and was able to do it. I needed to know I could do that and now I do," Di Stasio told Wrestling Canada Lutte at the end of the gold medal match. 

"She [Rueben] was very strong, when I pulled her down, I could feel she was strong enough to pull back up, so I let her do it so I could sneak in. I had to be patient because if I missed, I knew she would know I was coming. I got her where I wanted three or four times, then I hit it."

In her opening match, Di Stasio cruised to a 10-0 win against Australia's Naomi De Bruine, which moved her into the semifinals against Pooja Pooja of India.

She had a tougher competition in the semis with India's Pooja Shiag, but came out with a 6-0 win and advanced to the gold-medal bout. 

Di Stasio, who lives in Coquitlam, already had several medals to her name, including golds at the 2018 World Championships and the 2019 Pan-American Games, as well as four more gold from past Pan-American Championships. 

She's also been open about her experience with mental health and anxiety and, in August 2021, she penned a letter through the BC Women's Health Foundation, detailing her struggles and saying the focus on her mental health became a priority during the Olympic Trials in December 2019. 

"I felt like I needed to win, and the fear of failure was all I thought about. I didn’t know it at the time, but my anxiety was taking over," she wrote. 

"Normally, a little bit of performance anxiety helps me prepare and focus, but this time it was different – the pressure was overwhelming and I couldn’t find a way to calm down. 

"I didn’t make the Olympic team, but earned a position as an Olympic Alternate by placing second. Watching back the final matches of trials, I looked too scared to make a mistake. I felt like I stood out there for two matches and wasted the opportunity. 

Di Stasio explained she knew she needed to cope with falling short of her goal in a healthy way.

However, like many others, she said she was scared to admit she needed help. 

"I kept questioning why I felt so low and guilty for feeling bad when things in my life were 'good.' My best friend pushed me in the right direction by saying, 'Don’t think that you’re too good for therapy.' I had thought that if I went to therapy I might be taking the resource away from someone else who truly needed help. Turns out, I truly needed the help!" 

Di Stasio started therapy for her anxiety in January 2020, with support from Wrestling Canada.