Balfour one step closer to Tokyo
Jevon Balfour is one step closer to his dream of representing Canada at the Tokyo Olympics.
Last weekend in Calgary, the 25-year-old Brock Wrestling Club member defeated Jasmit Phulka of the Burnaby Mountain Wrestling Club 11-0 and 6-5 to earn the right to represent Canada in the 74-kilogram division at the Pan-American Olympic Qualification Tournament March 13-15 in Ottawa.
The Brampton native was unable to compete in the Olympic trials last December in Niagara Falls because of an eye injury. Phulka won the Olympic Trials and Balfour had to beat him twice in Calgary to earn the spot while Phulka only needed one victory.
Balfour was confident heading into the day.
“Right before the first match, I felt so amazing and I knew I was going to be good,” the five-time defending national champion said.
Phulka’s strategy was cautious.
“I could feel that he didn’t want to wrestle with me,” Balfour said. “He was waiting for me to do something and mess up and I don’t mess up too often. That is usually how I wrestle.”
After winning the first round, Balfour had 30 minutes to get ready for the deciding match.
“I felt the same and I felt really good moving around and then the refs gave him an out of bounds point and I watched the video a million times and it wasn’t an out of bounds point,” Balfour said. “Then he started getting a little bit dirty and he ripped off my goggles.”
Balfour said he accidentally poked Phulka in the eye and he was cautioned by the ref. Balfour was then assessed a one-point penalty for poking Phulka in the eye. Ahead 6-2, Phulka was given another point for a poke in the eye that Balfour said didn’t happen. Phulka then took him down to cut the lead to 6-5 with 40 seconds left in the match.
“With 20 seconds left, I was thinking don’t poke him in the eye again, hold your ground and make sure you are in a good stance,” Balfour said.
He did all of the above and was overjoyed when the match was over.
“I celebrated hard and I did the four (hand) claps that I love to do and I ran around. Everyone said I looked like an idiot but it was the adrenaline pumped up in me,” he said. “After I shook his coach’s hand and I was walking back to my corner, I was thinking, ‘finally.’ It was all worth it, it was done and let’t get on to the next step.”
Balfour took great satisfaction in taking down Phulka a number of times in the matches.
“Just getting takedowns on him was big because the last match we had I didn’t get any takedowns and every single article said that Jasmit got the only takedown,” he said. “That means nothing because I still won the match, but I was adamant that I would get some takedowns so they couldn’t say that again in the articles.”
To prepare for the wrestle-off, Balfour trained hard and then competed at the Guelph Open, which he won.
“I felt good in the room and at the tournament,” he said.
He is hoping to qualify for the Olympics in Ottawa.
“If I qualify earlier, I will get a little bit of a break. I would take that little break, go hard for a while and make sure I know what I am working on,” he said. “If I do it later, there is no break, it’s not as easy on the body and there’s more stress.”
He is confident he can get to done in Ottawa.
“If I wrestle to my capabilities, I can do it, for sure.”
Balfour lost to Cleo Ncube at the 2016 Olympic trials and is looking to become a first-time Olympian.
“It has been my goal for the last four years to get that real shot to go to the Olympics,” he said. “It’s not like nationals where if you win maybe you can be the No. 1 seed at the Olympic trials.”
Balfour joins fellow Brock wrestlers Michelle Fazzari, Jessie MacDonald, Ligrit Sadiku and Clayton Pye, who all won their divisions at the Olympic trials.
“Having teammates on the same journey is really good,” he said.
Balfour used to share a residence with Fazzari and her husband C.J. Hudson.
“It was like I was their kid so it was really cool that we get to do this together,” he said, with a laugh.