With the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics fast approaching, Abbotsford wrestler Jasmit Singh Phulka’s dreams of representing the red and white at the event may become a reality.
For years, Phulka has earned his wrestling stripes on the local, national and international stages and with success at key events later this year, the 25-year-old could represent Canada on the world stage.
Phulka’s summer heated up in late-June, when he impressed at the Canadian Wrestling World Team Trials and the Canada Cup International Wrestling Tournament.
Competing in the 79 kilograms division, Phulka won all four matches he competed in at the team trials, and then cut five pounds by the very next day to win at in the 74 kg division at the Canada Cup.
He was originally scheduled to compete at 79 kg at the World Championships in Kazahkstan, which run from Sept. 14 to 19. But when a spot came open in the 74 kg division for Canada, Phulka moved down and now has increased his opportunities to make the Canadian Olympic team.
The World Championships is the first Olympics qualification event and a top-five finish in the division will qualify Canada for Tokyo. Then if Phulka wins the Pan-Am trials in September he will make the team.
Despite being a lifelong Abbotsford resident, Phulka hasn’t exactly spent a lot of time in his hometown while he’s chasing his dreams. He noted that he hasn’t been home for more than five days in a row since January, splitting his time between tournaments he competes in all over the world and training at Fresno State University in California.
But he says he feels great heading into what will be an important few months.
“My consistency with training has been good and I’m getting better competing under the bright lights and with pressure,” he said. “All my training is paying off and I’m more comfortable in every situation on the mat. I have more confidence and it’s all coming together for me.”
He said the work in Fresno has developed him as a wrestler the past few years.
“There are really good coaches in Fresno and I also get the chance to train with all the members of their NCAA Division I school,” he said. “There are also regional athletes training for the U.S. Olympic team that come and practise, so you get some experienced guys and lots of young hungry wrestlers with the college athletes. It’s a good mix, and the intensity of wrestling in the U.S. is so different and better for me to learn and grow.”
In addition to the training in Fresno, Phulka also helps out at his alma matter – Miri Piri Wrestling Club in Abbotsford. It was at that club that coach Sucha Mann helped mould Phulka into the product he is today. The Rick Hansen Secondary grad said he owes much of his success to Mann.
“He got me into wrestling and he has been so important to me,” he said. “Coaching wrestling is like teaching a baby to walk. In India, they used to call coaches god – and I understand that now. He is my wrestling god in a way. He’s coached me for 15 years now.”
But Phulka said there is no way he would have the chance to compete at the Olympics without his family. He said they have supported him from day one and pushed him when he needed motivation.
“They support me so much,” he said. “Many of my trips aren’t funded by my sport so they help with that. My mom always makes me food, my dad gets me into the gym and my brother helps me out with training and advice. I really have a team behind me.”
Phulka said his father and brother [Chanmit] have not missed a trip to a tournament since he began competing. His mother, meanwhile, cheers him on from afar.
“She’s too scared to watch so she doesn’t come but will call my dad once it’s over,” he said, chuckling. “They say to raise a wrestler it takes a whole village and that’s the case here. They have helped me since day one. My dad is still an inspiration to me.”
Phulka heads to Kazahkstan in mid-September, and then goes to Niagara, Ont., for the Canadian Wrestling Trials from Dec. 6 to 8.
To follow along with Phulka on his Olympic journey, follow him on Instagram: @jphulka74.