Biography:

In his first Olympic wrestling bantamweight appearance at Paris 1924, Jim Trifunov’s colleagues took up a collection of funds to send him to the Games, where he lost in the first round finishing tied for ninth. His trip to Amsterdam 1928 was funded by friends and the Saskatchewan government, and it’s where he had his best Olympic result defeating Britain’s Harold Sansum for the bronze medal. In his final Olympic appearance at Los Angeles 1932, Trifunov lost his first two matches and was eliminated from the competition. For all three of his Olympic Games, he had to use his annual two-week holiday, plus take a four week leave of absence, from his job at the Regina Leader Post. For Berlin 1936, the paper sent him to Winnipeg for two weeks to help with the administration of the Free Press where he stayed for the remainder of his career.

At the inaugural 1930 British Empire Games, Trifunov won the bantamweight gold medal defeating England’s Joe Reid in the final. He started wrestling at the YMCA in 1922 despite their lack of a formal program. Within a year, he had won his first of nine Canadian bantamweight titles and only had one defeat on Canadian soil throughout his entire career.

With his parents and three siblings, Trifunov came from Jarkovac, Serbia and settled in Truax, Saskatchewan in 1910, his father passing away a few years after they arrived. He started his coaching career at the University of Winnipeg and got more involved in wrestling as a sports administrator serving as president of the Manitoba Wrestling Association for 25 years. Holding executive positions at the national level, Trifunov was a coach and manager of the wrestling teams at Helsinki 1952, Melbourne 1956 and Rome 1960, as well as every British Empire and Commonwealth Games from 1954-70. He worked tirelessly to realise the permanent home for the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame that opened five days before his death, which was three weeks shy of his 90th birthday in Winnipeg in 1993.

Made of Member of the Order of Canada in 1981, Trifunov was also inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1953, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1960, Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 1966, and Manitoba Sports Halls of Fame in 1981.