Meet Australia’s Indian wrestling guru, Kuldip Bassi
Kuldip Bassi was the first Indian-Australian to hold the esteemed position of President of Wrestling Australia. Elected as a result of his contributions to the sporting community, Kuldip used his position to not only create more opportunities for the underfunded sport of wrestling, he also worked hard to create pathways for more Indians to participate in an inclusive environment.
Now, as former president, Kuldip continues to use his influence in the sporting world to encourage more people to get involved in a sport of their choice. He has also played a key role in bringing the popular Indian sport Kabaddi to Melbourne, in continued support of the growing Indian population across Australia.
Kuldip’s love of sport began when he was just seven years old in India, when he took part in soccer, hockey and wrestling. However, moving between Australia and India throughout his childhood meant Kuldip began to focus on wrestling, building up his reputation in the community.
“I won the state championship in Punjab and then I won the Victorian title,” he said.
“At the time, I was involved with a lot of different clubs and there were also a lot of kids who were interested in wrestling in the area I lived, especially from the Punjabi and Indian community.”
To support this younger generation of Indian-Australians, Kuldip opened the United Wrestling Club in Melbourne, which later saw a number of members go on to represent Australia in major sporting events such as the Olympics.
“We were giving the kids exposure to the wrestling community through the club, so we’ve been there for them to help them join wrestling groups so that they can one day represent the diversity of the country, like I once did as president of Wrestling Australia,” he said.
There are currently around 250,000 Indians currently living in Melbourne, making it the city with the highest population of Indians in Australia. Of this, there are approximately 52,000 Punjabis in the Victorian capital, almost double the number of that in Sydney.
With this growth in the diaspora, there has also been a rise in money remittances from the community, and around USD$69 billion was sent to India last year, according to the world bank.
“I send a lot of money to India because I run a wrestling academy there so I pay the coaches and managers to look after the academy, and I also send it to look after the poor kids in my local village of Dhesian Kahna in the Jalandhar district of Punjab,” he said.
Not only is he looking after people in his village in India, Kuldip also continues to service the community in Australia, using the experience he gained as the first Indian president of Wrestling Australia to become chairman of the Australian Kabaddi Federation Inc, helping to bring the PUNVEC Kabaddi World Cup to Australia for the first time.
“We’re pushing for the sport to become more famous in Australia and get more people involved, and in next year’s cup, we are also going to get females involved because this year, we only had male competitors,” he said.
Kuldip will also be working with the Australian Sikh Games in Melbourne next year to not only continue to bring the Indian community together, but also include the wider Australian population.
“Even though I am from a Punjabi background, I feel so proud to be Australian and I would like to continue to do my best for the country,” he explained.