HAVANA._ Wrestling is likely to be among the sports in which Canada will prove to be a tough rival for Cuba in the battle for the second place in the forthcoming Pan American Games, to be hosted by the city of Toronto.

Former star wrestler Guivi Sissaouri, who has been the top coach of Canada´s free wrestling team for over a year, a position he first held with the junior team, is confident that his athletes will do very well at the games scheduled for the capital city of the province of Ontario from July 10 to 26.

At the 2011 Guadalajara Pan Am Games, Canada took only one gold medal, won by 2008 Beijing Olympic champion Carol Huynh (48 kgs) while only one male wrestler, Sunny Dhinsa (120 kg), reached the finals in which he ended up taking home silver.

Wrestling is likely to be among the sports in which Canada will prove to be a tough rival for Cuba in the battle for the second place in the forthcoming Pan American Games, to be hosted by the city of Toronto.For the Toronto Games we are very hopeful about our contestants Haislan García (65), Cleopas Ncube (74), Tamerlan Tagziev (85) and Khetag Pliev (97), said Sissaouri, the 1999-Winnipeg Pan Am champion.

The U.S. and Cuba have the strongest teams, but Canada will compete with both of them at their level, he added.

Sissaouri was in Havana last month heading the Canadian delegation in the 46th Granma-Cerro Pelado tournaments which brought together competitors of all three styles (free, Greco-Roman and female wrestling).

A naturalized Canadian since 1991 when he found himself without the means to continue training in his native Georgia due to the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Sissaouri competed in three Cuban tournaments, which he recalls fondly.

Cubans wrestlers are very good, aggressive and fast, which is why I think I´ll always bring Canadian wrestlers here to compete. You can do very good training sessions in Cuba, the 43-year old trainer said.

He added that this year´s tournament was much better because Hungary, Poland and the USA sent very good wrestlers while “we brought a combination of both young and experienced athletes,” said Sissaouri, whose last official competition was the 2008 Pan Am Championships.

At the recent Cerro Pelado tournament, Canada´s most outstanding wrestler, John Pineda, won gold in the 57 kilo division. That performance makes the trainer feel very optimistic - maybe as he also excelled in a similar division, he sees Pineda as a mirror of himself.

“Pineda is in good shape and Manjot Sandhu (97) is improving fast. We also have Amar Dhesi, a junior super heavyweight world champion. We are not counting on them right now but in two or three years from now,” the trainer said.

According to Sissaouri, his best results as a wrestler – silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and the title at the 2001 World Championships- are both equally important.

“The Olympic Games are the most important competition for every athlete but in 2001 I could truly say that I was the best in the world; that is why I place them at the same level,” he added.

In addition to Sissaouri, who was the champion at the 1999 Pan Am Games, Canadian wrestling boasts one more gold, won by Roozbeh Banihashemi (84 kg) at the 2007 Río de Janeiro Games; a result not recorded since the 1987 Indianapolis Games.

Of course, the 2015 Pan Am Games´ host nation aims to improve that performance – that is, if the U.S. and Cuba allow it to do so.

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