CHENNAI: Wrestler Sumit Malik will not be representing the country in the 125kg freestyle competition at the Tokyo Olympics, but the event would still have an Indian connection in form of Canadian wrestler Amarveer Dhesi.
The 25-year-old Amarveer had punched the Tokyo ticket by reaching the final of the Pan American Olympic Qualifier in March last year. He also had defeated Sumit twice since 2020 -both times at Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series in Rome.
Amarveer's father, Balbir Singh Dhesi, was the national wrestling champion in the 1970s and even harboured the dream of competing at the quadrennial event under the Indian flag. Hailing from Sanghwal village of Jalandhar district in Punjab, he, however, migrated to Canada in search of a better life.
"Olympics is the pinnacle of every sport and to represent your country in the event is the ultimate dream of any athlete. I too dreamt of doing that but couldn't succeed. I am happy now my son will do that. I would have been happiest if he had played for India," Balbir told The New Indian Express from Surrey, British Columbia.
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Balbir was a constable with Punjab police and was promoted as head constable in 1976. He left for Canada the same year to compete in a local dangal organised by his friend and decided to stay back. "Life was quite good in Canada in comparison to Punjab. I first worked as a building construction labourer and then got a job with a saw mill where I worked for 22 years. I also opened Khalsa Wrestling Club here to pursue my passion."
More than 50 wards are training at the club at the moment. Balbir's eldest son Parmvir Dhesi also competed in the 2010 Youth Olympic Games. He is now a sergeant with Vancouver police. Both Parmvir and Amarveer started wrestling at Khalsa Club.
Most of the family members of Balbir migrated to Canada gradually. He still owns a small piece of land in his native village and keeps visiting India to attend family functions. Amarveer though last visited India when he was three-four years old.
Olympic qualification was also a big relief for Amarveer as he had lost a qualifier on technical grounds and failed to make it to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
"He was distraught after the loss five years ago. The score was a tie but Amar lost on technical grounds. This time he was more determined and made the cut. I know he is living my dream and I hope he culminates the journey by finishing on the podium in Tokyo," signed off the father.