Hall of Famer
Inducted in 1960
Canadian bantamweight wrestling champion
Bronze Medal for 1928 Olympics Amsterdam
International Amateur Wrestling Federation, gold medal/Diploma of Honour
James Trifunov lived through the great social movements of the early 20th century as the Canadian government settled its vast western territories with immigrants from central Europe willing to farm the land. Trifunov's family emigrated from Serbia to the Canadian prairie in 1910, settling in Regina. His father died three years later, leaving a widow and four small children. Trifunov, as the youngest, remained in school while the other children worked to support the family. In 1917, he joined the local YMCA and five years later took up wrestling. The Regina YMCA did not have a formal wrestling program but still sent a team to the Canadian championships. Self-taught, Trifunov won the Canadian bantamweight championship in 1923. A year later, to his surprise, he was selected for the 1924 Olympic wrestling team. He had limited funds for the journey to Paris, however, and was able to make the trip only after 132 of his co-workers at the Regina Leader Post raised one dollar each. After his return from the Olympics, Trifunov continued to dominate Canadian bantamweight wrestling, winning the national championship every year for a decade (except 1931, when he was injured) and adding the featherweight championship in 1926. He returned to the Olympics in 1928, although he was not selected to the team by Canadian officials. Friends, this time with help from the Saskatchewan government, raised over $600 for Trifunov to make the trip to Amsterdam. He justified their faith by returning with a bronze medal in the 60 kg class. Trifunov was also a member of the Canadian wrestling team at the inaugural British Empire Games (now the Commonwealth Games) in 1930. The wrestlers swept all seven events at the competition in Hamilton, Trifunov and fellow Canada's Sports Hall of Fame inductee Earl McCready anchoring the squad. His competitive career came to an end with his final Olympic appearance at the 1932 Los Angeles Games. Trifunov's international career came at a time of limited government funding for athletes. For each of his three Olympic appearances he had to take his annual two-week holiday plus an additional four weeks leave from the Regina Leader Post. In 1936, the Leader Post sent him to Winnipeg for two weeks to help with the administration of the Free Press (the two newspapers were owned by the same family). Two weeks turned into 57 years, and Trifunov became a leader in Winnipeg's amateur sport community. He joined the local Y.M.C.A. wrestling club, coached at the University of Winnipeg, and became involved with the Manitoba Wrestling Association, an organization whose presidency he filled for 25 years. He also served as a director of the Canadian Amateur Wrestling Association and was chairman of the boxing and wrestling committee of the Canadian Amateur Athletic Union from 1952 to 1960. Trifunov's contributions to Canadian wrestling were not confined to administration. He remained involved in international sport and the Olympic movement. He coached the Canadian wrestling teams at the 1952, 1956, and 1960 Olympic Games. He filled the dual role of coach and manager in 1956 and 1960, while Trifunov was also team manager for the Canadian wrestling teams at the 1954 British Empire Games and the 1970 British Commonwealth Games. Canadian wrestlers won nine medals in the ten weight classes in 1970. Trifunov's lifelong dedication to local sport and amateur wrestling was recognized with numerous awards. In 1982, he was made a member of the Order of Canada. He was involved with the YMCA, in both Regina and Winnipeg, for over 70 years and was made a lifetime member of the Winnipeg Y. His contributions to wrestling were recognized with the International Amateur Wrestling Federation's gold star medal and Diploma of Honour in 1976. Trifunov has been enshrined in numerous halls of fame and for many of his last years he worked tirelessly to achieve a permanent home for the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, which opened five days before his death.