With packed badminton courts and junior badminton players waiting at Panjab University Gymnasium Hall, it was a long wait for the 200-odd players at the hall before The Great Khali made his way into the hall. As the 7”1’ tall former WWE wrestler came to the stage, players and officials thronged the venue to seek autographs. Moments later, Khali played badminton with the members of the visiting Czech Republic junior team and soon the attention turned to the youth.
“I want to tell the youth that we should not do drugs. Nobody can force you for drugs and it is up to the youth to avoid the menace.
Whatever I am today is because of sport today and staying away from drugs makes me believe that I can do that. Drugs affect the body of the addicts and the whole family is destroyed due to drugs. There should be dope tests for admission to the police forces and I appreciate this step of Punjab government,” said Khali whose real name is Daleep Singh Rana.
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Being the first Indian to feature in WWE wrestling, Khali went on to become the first heavyweight champion in WWE from India and the Jalandhar resident would feature in WWE for more than nine years before his contract expired in November 2014. The last one-and-a-half year has seen Khali opening his Continental Wrestling Championships Academy near Jalandhar where the wrestler trains more than 200 players. While two of his wards Satinder and Lovepreet have bagged WWE contracts in the past one year, Khali has also organised CWC matches in Uttarakhand.
“Earlier professional wrestling happened only abroad but now the youngsters are getting a good platform here in India as well. Satinder and Lovepreet are doing well abroad and shown the world that more Indians can excel in this format. I want more and more youngsters to come and train. Currently we have more than 200 players practising at my academy and most of them come from states like UP, Maharashtra, Assam and Karnataka. I train them personally daily and we want to take the Continental Wrestling Championships further,” said Khali, who was accompanied by his wife Harpinder Kaur and daughter Loveleen.
Khali said he would train trainees from Punjab Police for free if they trained fully at his academy. “Trainees come from small villages and they train daily. I am also willing to train Punjab Police trainees free of cost if they adhere to the schedule. One of our champions Laxmi Rajput is from Uttar Pradesh and talent like him can excel in future too,” added Khali.
With all eyes on the Indian wrestling contingent, Khali wished the Indian wrestling team and is hopeful that they will win medals at Rio. “I wish all the members of the wrestling continent for Rio Olympics best of luck and I wish they return with medals. I met Sushil Kumar earlier before London Olympics. His contribution to Indian wrestling has been tremendous. His two medals in Olympics inspire many and the same goes for Yogeshwar Dutt too,” said Khali, who originally belongs to Sirmour in Himachal Pradesh.