The Scarborough wrestler faces a battle off the mat in his fight to compete for Canada at the Olympics

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It is Jevon Balfour’s dream to represent Canada at the Olympics.

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But that dream turned into a nightmare for the Brock University wrestler.

Balfour narrowly missed competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics and is determined to represent Canada at the Tokyo Olympics this summer. Unfortunately, there is one major obstacle in his way that has nothing to do with his wrestling ability, which is considerable.

In September 2019, Balfour underwent eye surgery to repair a detached retina. Because of this, he was unable to compete in the Canadian Olympic Trials in December 2019. However, Wrestling Canada allowed Balfour to enter a fight in February 2020 in Calgary against his rival in the 74 kilogram category – Jasmit Phulka of the Burnaby Mountain Wrestling Club – to determine which wrestler would compete for Canada at the Pan American Olympic Qualifying Tournament in March 2020 in Ottawa. The top two in each weight class in Ottawa would qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

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Balfour beat Phulka twice in the fight – 11-0 and 6-5 – and won the right to participate in the trials. But that’s when Balfour’s journey to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics went off the rails. Wrestling Canada allowed him to compete in wrestling if he wore goggles, due to eye surgery in September. However, United World Wrestling – the world governing body for international amateur wrestling – decided that he could not attend the Ottawa trials with glasses, because they feared that the glasses could be used as a weapon, as ridiculous as it may seem. It’s amateur freestyle wrestling, not WWE. After the UWW refused to allow Balfour to compete in the Olympic trials, Wrestling Canada decided that he could no longer wrestle at all, either domestically or internationally. He also lost his carding money, the funding the Government of Canada gives to high performance amateur athletes. Balfour appealed this decision but lost. And that was just the first kick in the gut toilet given to the Scarborough native.

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Following his call, Balfour saw two other ophthalmologists and a sports physician who determined that he was not, in fact, monocular (sighted in one eye) and did not need glasses to compete. After sending these findings to WC, they ultimately decided that Balfour could resume his wrestling career and his patent would be taken over. But what Balfour really wants is the chance to represent Canada at the Tokyo Olympics. Phulka failed to place in the top two at the Olympic tryouts in Ottawa last March and there is now a last chance Olympic qualifying tournament in May, in Bulgaria. Based on his performance against Phulka in the fight, Balfour believes his No. 1 ranking in the 74kg weight class should be restored and he should be allowed to represent Canada in Bulgaria. But here comes the second kick in the gut. WC has ruled that Phulka is still Canada’s No. 1 ranked 74kg wrestler because Balfour’s two catch-off victories were overturned – the result of his injury at the time, although it turns out that he shouldn’t have been banned from wrestling because he wasn’t monocular. He didn’t need to wear glasses. Despite this, WC plans to send Phulka, who has never defeated Balfour, to Bulgaria.

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“At first (when I heard this) I was super peeved,” said Balfour, who currently trains in Ithaca, NY, with some of the best freestyle wrestlers in the United States, including the two-time champion of the world Kyle Dake. “I thought, ‘How can they do that?’ They gave me everything back except my ranking (#1). It’s confusing. We have all these proofs that I am able to compete but they (WC) do not want to return the place? It’s frustrating.”

Apparently, it’s all about procedure. Balfour’s attorney, Zach Rosen, said he would challenge WC’s decision not to restore his client’s No. 1 ranking and send him to the final Olympic trials.

“Frankly, it’s just unfair,” Rosen said. “The reason Wrestling Canada gave as to why the results (of the wrestling) cannot be considered in Jevon’s ranking was that he wore goggles during this competition, which they told him. asked to do because of the state of health they had. mistakenly thought he had at the time. Subsequently, medical evidence that was provided to Wrestling Canada established that Jevon is not monocular and is at no greater risk of eye injury than any other athlete, and that there is no no reason why he should be required to wear goggles when training or competing.

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“(WC) have taken the position that this is an issue that has already been determined when in fact the last time this was considered was March 2020 (the appeal), long before Wrestling Canada and Jevon had the proven medical edge he has now,” Rosen added. “I think their position is very technical and I don’t think it’s consistent with how their policies should be implemented.

“The sooner Wrestling Canada can sort things out, the better,” Rosen continued. “We hope they restore Jevon’s ranking as soon as possible so he can be sure of what comes next. They took a long time to get Jevon approved to return to training and competition (last year). It took them three months after receiving the medical evidence to issue this approval. So I think any further delay at this point in doing what is right is not right and is not acceptable.

Wrestling Canada would not officially comment on the matter.

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Twitter @Beezersun

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Robert J. King