Monday, March 8, 2021

Looking for a fight

Reading Time: 3 minutesRupinder Kaur is all set for Glasgow as part of Australia’s wrestling team

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With only days to go before the big event, Rupinder Kaur is concentrating hard on her training.

For six days a week, it’s track and field in the day, and in the afternoon, club.

The 29-year-old wrestler is working hard indeed to make the most of the opportunity she has won, a spot on the Australian national team for the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Sote, jaagte, bas game, game, game ke bare mein soochti rehti hoon (All I think about in my waking hours and even in my sleep, is my game)” she tells Indian Link bursting with enthusiasm. “Most nights, I even dream about the game!”

In between training, she concentrates on her diet.

She’s just finished dinner as Indian Link speaks to her, a hearty Punjabi meal of wadi, plenty of vegetables, paneer, dal, yogurt and a massive bowl of fruit. As a vegetarian, she has to get the proteins in.

Plus, these days, she’s trying to gain some weight.

As someone who has always played in the 48 kg division, she was shocked when she weighed in at just over 49 kg before her selection. The gain in weight meant that she would be placed at the next level, the 53 kg division. With exactly a week to go, Rupinder worked hard to lose the extra kilo, but ultimately weighed in at 48.2 kg. She is now competing in the 53 kg division.

“Actually, I’m eating bananas by the dozen these days,” she says, laughing.

Wrestlers typically lose weight to compete in a lower division, but Rupinder feels she should be ok.

Koshish to puri hai, baaki Bhagwan jo kare (I’m trying my hardest, the rest I leave to God),” she says with simplicity.

It’s been an interesting journey for Rupinder. She arrived here some seven years ago as a hospitality student, fully determined to continue wrestling which she started in India at school.

“I did not know a thing about wrestling in Australia, but I was hell bent on finding out”.

Seven months later, at a local Diwali function, a family member introduced her to Kuldip Singh Bassi, founder and president of the United Wrestling Club in Melbourne. Rupinder was back on the mat in no time. Before long, she was winning championships such as the Australia Cup.

To compete at the international level though, she had to wait for her citizenship to come through.

“My only regret in my wrestling career is that I left it so late with my citizenship”.

But now she is looking eagerly ahead. In Glasgow, she will catch up with her old mates from the Indian national team.

“I know most of the Indian team, yes,” she reveals. “My closest friend Navjyot Kaur will be there, competing in the 69 kg category. Navjyot and I are both from Hari Ke Patan near Tarn Taran in Punjab. We used to train together in the old days”.

Rupinder started her fight career in judo as a Year 6 student, following her sister Parminder. In Year 12 she was asked to give wrestling a try.

“Initially I felt a bit shy to put the costume on – with judo there were no costume issues. Mum was concerned about injuries. But Dad told us both to stop being silly! As an army man he wanted his children to try as many new experiences as possible. My first performance came good, and I have never looked back”.

So what’s in the future?

“Well, there’s talk about Rio already!” Rupinder says. “But whatever eventuates, I will be connected to wrestling all my life, that’s for sure”.

The young athlete is keen for her team to bring back as many medals as possible from Scotland.

“It will be a huge boost for the sport in this country. It is so little known. Plus we need more support, really. Currently, I’m paying my own club fees like all my other team mates. In India, as a member of the national team, my training was free”.

Rupinder follows fellow-Melbournian Sandeep Kumar, another Indian-origin wrestler, who represented Australia at the Beijing Olympics.

Oh, and we can’t let Rupinder go without asking an important question: does she know the words to the Australian national anthem, just in case?

Pat comes the reply, “Haanji, bilkul aata hai, ji (Yes of course!)”

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi, oi, oi!

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Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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