#BCMulticulturalismWeek with Raj Virdi: Bridging Culture and Sport Together with Wrestling
Nov 17, 2023
Every year in British Columbia, the third week in November is proclaimed as Multiculturalism Week. BC Multiculturalism Week is a time to celebrate diverse cultures and learn more about how the unique perspectives and cultures in BC strengthen the amateur sport sector to be a more inclusive environment for everyone. In this article, we tell the story of dedicated and passionate athlete and coach Raj Virdi, who, through the appreciation of his culture and his love of wrestling, drove him to make a lasting impact in the wrestling community.
Raj Virdi, a high-performance head coach for BC Wrestling and a three-time Canadian senior national medalist, was first introduced to wrestling at a young age. Raj had just entered high school when he found wrestling because his gym teacher, Mr. Marello, introduced it in one of his classes. After this, he fell in love with wrestling and the community and culture that came alongside it.
From the very beginning, wrestling has played a big role in enriching his athletic journey and his culture. Raj shares that, “wrestling has been very culturally influential for me,” because wrestling is a popular sport in India, which translated into many Indo-Canadian youth in BC participating in the sport. “I went to a club that was majority Indian Canadians, so the Indian culture played a huge role in my athletic development.”
Over the years, Raj has given back to his sport and his community through coaching. Raj started his coaching career at Khalsa Wrestling Club. Khalsa Wrestling Club is a non-profit, multicultural association, that builds on bridging the sport of wrestling and Sikh faith together. After this experience, he coached and created a university wrestling program.
Raj and Arjan Bhullar, a friend he had met during his first year at Simon Fraser University (SFU), decided to create a men’s and women’s university wrestling program at the University of Fraser Valley (UFV). They created this program because SFU transferred to the NCAA in 2010, and BC was left with no Canadian university wrestling program. The goal when creating this program was, of course, to be outstanding, but also help students learn about the importance of cultural exchange in sport.
During his time coaching at UFV, Raj took six athletes on a 10-day trip to Chandigarh, India, where UFV has a satellite campus. “We wanted to show the athletes what wrestling in India is like and to understand the culture because I believe cultural exchange is so important in the sport experience.”
After coaching at UFV, Raj moved on to become the Assistant Coach with the Simon Fraser University wrestling program, and now he is the Head Provincial Coach at BC Wrestling Association. Raj shares that the success of his career is attributed to his cultural ties. “My Indian culture of wrestling has been a great influence on my success as a wrestler and now coach because of the support I have had from those in my community.”
Raj has shared how wrestling has not only influenced his own culture over the years but also recognizes the positive effect sport can have on bringing people of different cultures together. “Sport has no language. I have travelled to over 30 countries as a coach and athlete, and even when people do not speak English, we can still communicate with them through the language of sport.”