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Though India failed to win a medal in hockey at the 1976 Olympics, there were two players of Indian origin — Ramesh Patel and Mohan Patel — who won the Olympic gold medal as part of the New Zealand team. This year, there are a number of Indian-origin athletes representing their countries in various sports, hoping to win those coveted medals.
Tokyo will see three hockey players in action with Indian roots — Sukhpal (Sukhi) Panesar and Keegan Pereira representing Canada and Jared Panchia turning out for New Zealand.
Both Panesar, who traces his roots to a village near Ludhiana in Punjab, and Pereira, whose father Reginald has played hockey in Mumbai, have been part of the Canada team for many years.
Panchia traces his roots to Gujarat and his brother Arun is also a hockey player who was part of the New Zealand team that played in the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi.
The United States’ hopes in table tennis will be led by Kanak Jha and Nikhil Kumar. Kanak, whose mother hails from Mumbai and father from Kolkata and Prayagraj, was the youngest player to represent the US at the Olympics in 2016.
Now 21, Jha will be playing in individual as well as team competition. 18-year-old Kumar is a new entrant in the team having topped the US Olympic trials. His father is a software engineer from Kerala.
For tennis fans, Rajeev Ram needs no introduction as he is a regular on the circuit for over a decade, playing in doubles and mixed doubles. He won the Australian Open men’s doubles title in 2020 and in the 2016 Olympics had partnered Venus Williams to silver in mixed doubles. In Tokyo, he will play doubles with Frances Tiafoe.
Amar Dhesi will be representing Canada in freestyle wrestling (125kg) at the Tokyo Olympics. His father, Balbir Singh Dhesi, was a national champion in Greco Roman in India before he migrated to Canada. Amar, who was born in Surrey, British Columbia, was the junior world champion in 2014 and will be Canada’s main hope in wrestling at Tokyo.
Water polo player Gurpreet Sohi is another player of Indian origin who is part of Canada’s contingent at Tokyo. Sohi, born in British Colombia, is a major in human biology from Stanford University and has represented Canada in water polo in the world league and the 2018 World Cup.
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