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This is a curry pot like no other

Wrestling is nowhere near being a top sport in Australia. The team's performance though, is getting attention back home, as they picked up the country's first medals in 30 years. What is interesting though, is that the Aussie team sheet is a multi-cultural melting pot. Siddhanth Aney reports.

delhi Updated: Oct 13, 2010 01:06 IST
Siddhanth Aney

Wrestling is nowhere near being a top sport in Australia. The team's performance though, is getting attention back home, as they picked up the country's first medals in 30 years. What is interesting though, is that the Aussie team sheet is a multi-cultural melting pot.

Even for a nation of immigrants, it is remarkable that Australia is represented by ethnicities as diverse as Slavs and Iranians. They also have an Armenian coach and an Indian manager, making it the perfect curry pot.

Ivan Popov, who won gold in the Greco-Roman super heavyweight category on Wednesday, comes from Siberia. He was born there, and took up Australian nationality partly because of the opportunity to compete at the international level. Since Russia regularly produces world champions, getting in the squad there is much harder.

"I have to train in Russia because the facilities and the training partners are much better. But I am very happy to compete for Australia and that I have won a medal for the country," the Siberian said.

Kuldip Bassi, originally from Punjab, and still as fluent in his native tongue, has been in Australia since 1974. He says he has been involved in the sport there for 25 years, and also runs the United Wrestling Club in Melboure.

"We sometimes have to pick up wrestlers from strong wrestling nations, because the sport needs a foothold. Now that we have that, we are grooming Australian born youngsters. We will have a world champion very soon, and the fact that we are winning medals now will help a lot."

Mehrad Tarash, 20 and Gene Kapfaus, 21, were both practicing when HT met them. Tarash was born in Iran and moved to Australia with his family when he was eight. His brother is also in the wrestling squad.

"We moved mainly because of education opportunities in Australia. Wrestling has come as a bonus," he says.

Kapfaus is of German-Maltese descent. "It's great that the squad is so diverse. Australia is a multi-cultural nation, and nothing reflects that as well as this team," Kapfaus adds.