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Sonepat grappler in Oz Oly squad

other Updated: Jun 05, 2008 02:16 IST
Saurabh Duggal
Saurabh Duggal
Hindustan Times
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Sonepat wrestler Sandeep Singh grew up dreaming of taking part in the Olympics. It's all falling in place for him now --- with a slight 'change' in script. The 25-year-old has become the first sportsperson of Indian origin to make it to the Australian Olympic squad.

"It's great to compete in the Olympics and I am felling honoured to represent Australia," an elated Sandeep told Hindustan Times from Melbourne. The 84-kg category wrestler had migrated to Australia in 2004 to pursue his passion and earn a good living. "For the last three years, I have been winning gold in the Australian National Championship and last year I represented the country in the World meet. I won the quota place in the Oceania qualifiers," he said.

Sandeep took to driving a taxi to earn a living and used the spare time for practice. "My day starts at 5:00 a.m. and after a two-hour practice in the United Wrestling Club, I drive a taxi. In the evening, I again spare time for the sport. But for the last one month, I have been concentrating on wrestling," said Sandeep, who hails from Dhanana village in Sonepat.

Talking about his Beijing preparation, he said, "Next week, I am going to the US for a three-week training programme and after that I will go to Japan."

Sandeep, who was a constable in Punjab Police before shifting base, represented India in the World Children Sports Festival in Russia where he won gold and also took part in the Asian Cadet Championship in 1999 in Iran.

Expressing happiness over Sandeep's inclusion in the Australian team, his former coach P R Sondhi, who is currently the chief coach of the Indian team, said, "Sandeep came to me in Phagwara in early 1990s. I am happy he will be representing Australia in the Olympics."

Sandeep first went to Australia in 1998 and finally migrated in 2004. "We both went to Australia in 1998 and 2002 and competed in the professional circuit there. But as Sandeep was not able to make a decent living in India he decided to shift base for good. I am happy that he is participating in the Beijing Games," said Chand Nath, the wrestler's former colleague.