When he was six years old in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, Sasha Kaplin’s father told him to select a sport and stick to it.
His mother, Yana Kaplina, says the family would scramble to drop the kid at judo practice with their busy schedules.
But it surely finally paid off, she says. “Now we’ve good results.”
Kaplin recently qualified for the Judo Nova Scotia team, and his goal is to win a medal for Nova Scotia on the Canada Winter Games in P.E.I later this month.
The one thing stopping him is his refugee status on this country. Canada Games requires athletes to be either everlasting residents or Canadian residents to participate.
He has until late February to receive the everlasting residency papers he applied for five months ago and he hasn’t lost hope.
“It means loads for me,” says Kaplin. “It’s my province. It helps me loads.”
He says judo helps him keep his mind off the war and give attention to his good memories in Ukraine. His dream with judo is evident. “Olympics. First place,” for Canada, he says.
The 16-year-old got here to Nova Scotia together with his family in April 2022 once they decided to depart Ukraine, two months after Russian forces invaded the country. Since then, he’s remained committed to the game.
Seeing Kaplin’s skill, his coach, Jason Scott who also selects judokas for the provincial team, took the responsibility to cover his training fees, his Judo Nova Scotia membership, and his uniform costs to ease his family’s expenses.
Pratima Devichand, an immigration consultant who also trains with Scott, helped the Kaplins process their everlasting residency applications totally free.
‘It’s a giant deal for our province’
Kaplin plays within the 90-kilogram weight division and already won a silver medal on the Elite 8 Nationals, a Canada-wide tournament. He already qualified for a tournament in Germany this yr.
“If he does thoroughly there, then Judo Canada starts taking a look at him, and we’re hoping that eventually, sooner or later, we’ll put him on the national team,” said Scott.
“I’d say he’s in the highest two in Canada [for his age], in order that’s how good he’s,” says Scott, who can be the owner of Nova United Martial Arts.
The Nova Scotia team consists of seven males and 7 females in numerous weight divisions.
Scott said the variety of under-18 team members in Nova Scotia may be very small, so no everlasting resident or Canadian citizen can be displaced by Kaplin.
He also says an individual’s immigration status within the country should not be a deciding consider allowing them to represent the province in sports.
“Why not give them the chance they deserve?” says Scott.
“Canada alone is about diversity … it doesn’t matter who that person is. I feel if he’s living in our province and, sooner or later in time, he’ll get his everlasting residency and live here for good.”
Kaplin created a robust bond together with his teammates within the last yr.
His teammate Abigail Smith says the complete squad is like family, and leaving one behind wouldn’t feel right.
“He deserves to go,” she says.
Eligibility of refugee participants discussed
Courtney Pollock, a spokesperson for Canada Games, said the Canada Games Council has had some preliminary discussions concerning the potential eligibility of refugee participants in future tournaments.
She said the choice to permit refugees to participate will must be made by the federal and provincial governments, who set the eligibility requirements for the Canada Games Council.
She also said presently, “there isn’t a mechanism in place to permit refugees to compete as independents,” said Pollock.
In response to the federal government’s website, the immigration department is facing a backlog of immigration applications. The Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment.