Orlando Baccino is a heavyweight. Literally. Prod him just a wee bit, and the 41-year-old Argentine, here to take part in the third circle-style kabaddi World Cup, is quick to rip off his shirt.
Fear not, though, for he is a gentle giant. He does not want to tear you limb from limb — he
just wants to show off his telling tattoo.
On his back is an instantly recognisable motif. Five interlocking rings depicting the earth’s continental landmasses, each circumscribing a bit of text. Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004.
Latin America’s sole representatives in Punjab this year have flown in, apart from wrestlers and rugby players, quite a few martial artists.
But among them, Baccino stands out, and not just because of his stature. And while he may not have a medal to boast of, that the judoka has taken part in four successive Olympics is no mean feat.
Baccino, who reached the round of 16 in Sydney, has spent most of the last two decades traversing across the Americas, all the while adding to his medals in the +100kg and open weight classes.
Pan am gold
The most prized of 'em all is the gold he won at the Pan American Judo Championships held in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1997. So after all those achievements, why take up another sport?
“Well, I also wrestle!” informs Baccino. “And I like kabaddi because it’s a strong game.”
His newfound passion has made him travel across the globe, but he isn't complaining. “I love it here.
The people, the culture... the whole experience has been amazing," says Baccino, who would have experienced it a year earlier. “Ricardo had approached me before last year's World Cup,” he recalls. “But I was busy trying to qualify for London.”
He didn't, but someone else here did. Thirty-year-old Cristian Schmidt makes it two heavyweight Olympian judokas-turned-kabaddi players in the Argentine squad. What are the odds?
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