Swimming

Zsofia Balazs may abandon her Olympic dream

Zsofia Balazs, a rookie with the Toronto Police Service, is living her lifelong dream of being a police officer and she is not convinced she has the time it takes to train to remain a high-level athlete.

Canadian swimmer torn between sport and profession as police officer

Toronto's Zsofia Balazs is a top long-distance swimmer, but just missed making the Pan Am team. She says it's hard balancing work as a police officer, while also chasing Olympic goals. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Zsofia Balazs is at a crossroads.

There is a huge part of her that would love to continue her swimming career that enabled her to compete in such high profile events as the 2007 Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro and the 2012 Olympics in London.

At the same time, the rookie with the Toronto Police Service is living her lifelong dream of being a police officer and she is not convinced she has the time it takes to train to remain a high-level athlete.

"I would like to go to another Olympics, but there are a lot of things to consider including the time commitment," Balazs said. "I need to weigh the pros and cons in terms of who I am hurting and who I am helping in the process."

The 25-year-old Balazs began swimming at four years old and was racing by the time she was seven in her native Budapest, Hungary. She continued competing when she and her family immigrated to Canada in 2004. Balazs generally competed in the longer distance swimming events in the pool and in 2006 she tried out for an open water event and won. From that point on she became a long distance swimmer.

Moved to Canada to realize dream

Balazs wanted to become a police officer and her sister wanted to go to University so when her parents didn't believe either could achieve their goal in Hungary, they packed up the family and moved to Canada.

"They packed up three kids and came to Canada and made sure we could go for our dreams," Balazs.

Balazs joined the Toronto Police Service last April and is still on probation. She hopes to be permanently accepted by the TPS in September.

"I wanted to be a police officer for as long as I can remember and I can't exactly pinpoint what it is that made me feel that way," Balazs said. "I think I just needed something where everything was different and everything was a challenge and I could give my best every day. I love to challenge myself in terms of overcoming obstacles."

Balazs helped Canada win a silver medal in the 2007 Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro by swimming heats in the 4x200-metre freestyle and then placed 18th in the women's 10 km open water swim at the London Olympics.

"Just the journey to get to the [London] Olympics was amazing," Balazs said. "There are always ups and downs and I think I had more downs at certain points. Just before the Olympics I had to decide I am either going to do this and it is going to happen or I'm done. I sat in my coach's office crying and saying, 'You need to tell me if I can do this.' She said we were going to do it together. Making the team was a bigger memory than being at the Olympics."

OLG sponsorship key

​Balazs said she is very thankful for the financial aid she has received along the way from the OLG Quest For Gold Program. A portion of the proceeds from each lottery ticket sold is used to fund athletes in their quest for gold medals.

"I was one of the very first athletes to be picked for the program," Balazs said. "It was very early in my Canadian career and at that time we were very, very tight on money as a family. For me to continue with my swimming and not put extra financial pressure on my family, it was a big deal to get the help."

Balazs tried out for the 2015 Pan Am Games, but didn't make the team.

"I tried, but I was working full-time and I didn't have the time I needed to train," Balazs said. "I gave it my best shot, but at the end of the day, I couldn't compete with the girls who can actually commit all their time to swimming."

Balazs said she is uncertain if her policing schedule will allow her the proper time required to be an elite long distance swimmer. She hopes to make up her mind by the end of July.

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