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Commonwealth Games: Some competition is also Indian

Twenty-eight years ago, at the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi, Gian Singh Cheema proudly wore India colours as he accepted two bronze medals. Less than a month from now, at the Commonwealth Games, his son Gurbinder Cheema will try to add another international medal to the family cabinet. Saurabh Duggal reports.

chandigarh Updated: Sep 10, 2010 02:37 IST
Saurabh Duggal

Twenty-eight years ago, at the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi, Gian Singh Cheema proudly wore India colours as he accepted two bronze medals. Less than a month from now, at the Commonwealth Games, his son Gurbinder Cheema will try to add another international medal to the family cabinet.

Except, in Gurbinder's case, he'll be singing God Save the Queen.

Gurbinder, 31, was born in England and is a British citizen. He's already a Commonwealth Games medalist, having won England a bronze in weightlifting at the 2002 Manchester Games. Cheema Sr, though, holds an Indian passport despite having lived in the UK for 47 years, after his family moved there when he was 11.

"I am happy my son is competing and I hope he makes it to a podium finish," Gian Singh told HT from Birmingham on Thursday.

"But otherwise, though I live in England, my heart beats for India. I want to see India do well at the Games."

Three other players of Indian origin — Rajivv Ouseph (badminton), Iqbal Ubhi and Parag Patel (both shooting) — will don the England jersey at the Games.

"My grandfather migrated to England from Punjab," said Ubhi (43).

"I was born and brought up in England."

He was in India during this year's Commonwealth Shooting Championships, winning a silver and a bronze in the 25m centre fire pistol.

His sons, Amann and Amit, incidentally, are table tennis players and are following the sport professionally.

Ouseph (24), the current world No 14, traces his lineage to Thrissur, Kerala. The England No 1 became the first badminton player of Indian origin to win the men's singles title at the English National Championships in 2008.

Not just that, there are at least 13 players of Indian origin among four teams, with seven from Canada leading New Zealand (one) and Australia (1).

Ken Pereira, a veteran of over 300 international caps, is captain of the 16-member Canadian hockey team. His family was originally from Goa and his father migrated to Canada in 1967. Among his team-mates are Sukhwinder (Gabbar) Singh and Keegan Pereira.

Sukhwinder is from Punjab and had earlier represented India in the juniors before migrating, while Keegan was six when his parents moved to Canada from Mumbai.

Jasver Singh, a former Punjab Police sub-inspector, who migrated to Canada is a regular member of the Canadian lifting squad. He even turned out for them in the 2008 Olympics.

He has for company among the lifters, Parm Phangura, also from Punjab.

Another Punjabi, Arjan Bhullar, a bronze medallist at last year's Commonwealth Championships, is Canada's representative in the +120kg wrestling event, while the seventh person of Indian origin in the Canadian team is Hirendra Bhartu. The 51-year-old is the world's top-ranked player in Lawn Bowls.

Priyesh Bhana and Arun Panchia are both Black Sticks — part of the 16-member New Zealand hockey squad. They were both in Delhi earlier this year, for the hockey World Cup.

Meanwhile, Australia have a two-time World championship medal-winning gymnast in their squad, with the unlikely name of Prashanth Sellathurai.