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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
NOTL wrestler carries father’s fighting spirit to gold medal win
Zubin Gatta receives a hug after winning a bronze in the individual wrestling. Leah Parker

Zubin Gatta went into the Canada Summer Games on a mission – with a gold medal as his goal.

Mission accomplished: He took gold with Team Ontario and won an individual bronze in the 52-kg. weight class.

“It was hard work, but it all paid off,” said Gatta in an interview after the medals were awarded. 

He credited his father Kekoo’s lessons and fighting spirit for helping him reach his goal.

Team Ontario faced British Columbia in the gold medal match on Aug. 10 where they put up 32 points to British Columbia’s 16. 

Gatta scored five points against his opponent, Noah Tam, in 23 seconds, helping Ontario to a decisive win over their west coast rival.

At 16, Gatta is the youngest member of the Ontario wrestling team and the only wrestling competitor from Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

On his journey to the podium in his individual match, Gatta encountered a tough competitor in Eekeeluak Clarence Avalak from Nunavut. 

Gatta lost his semifinal match 5-0 to Avalak (the eventual gold medallist), but came back to win bronze against Tristan Sears of Quebec, 4-0. 

Gatta said he went into his match with Avalak with a game plan but things took a turn when he sprained his elbow mid-match. 

“That’s wrestling,” Gatta said. 

“(The plan) was to wear him out for the first minute and half because he comes out strong and wears out slowly,” he said of the strategy he and his coach devised.

Gatta said he’ll probably take some time off to let his injured elbow heal, but as soon as its ready he plans to get back to training with the Brock varsity wrestlers.

After that, it is forward to Ontario high school championships and the nationals next year for the young wrestler.

“It’s nice to have him back,” said his father, Kekoo, a custom homebuilder based in NOTL. 

COVID-19 and the lockdowns that came with it put an end to contact sports at all levels of competition.

Wrestling was no exception.

During lockdown, Gatta developed a love of weight lifting and began to lose interest in wrestling.

When he came back to wrestling, he moved up a weight class.

Gatta underperformed by his own standards at the cadet nationals in his new weight class, so he opted to cut weight and fight in the 52-kg. class at the Summer Games.

His father was exuberant to see him back in the ring, regardless of his weight class.

Zubin’s brother Cyrus and sister Farrantina competed as high level wrestlers when they were their brother’s age. 

This is no accident.

“That was something that kept me off the streets,” Kekoo Gatta said, reflecting on his own experience with wrestling in his teenage years.

“It was a poor man’s sport. Growing up, we had no money, so the only thing you needed was a pair of shorts and a T-shirt and lots of sweat,” he said.

Gatta, who now coaches Brock University’s junior wrestling team, said his high school wrestling coach was sensitive to the needs of lower-income students.

His coach, Tom Sills, used to pay for their tournaments and the occasional trip to McDonald’s when he attended Thorold Secondary School in the early 1980s.

In his final two years of high school, Gatta trained under former Olympic wrestler Richard Deschatelets Sr., who started the Brock University wrestling program.

“We had no money. So it was really good – family – belonging to a certain wrestling family,” Gatta said. 

The sport also taught him some valuable life lessons that he has carried with him into the building industry.

“I give it all to wrestling,” he said.

Zubin Gatta has previously acknowledged the challenges of committing to the athlete’s grind. 

It is not always easy to get up and run, but, as his father says, it’s not an option. 

“Don’t start it if you’re not going to finish it,” he said.

As a businessman, he has led his company, Gatta Homes, through three recessions in 30 years.

“It’s like you’re getting pinned.You’re on your back, but you can’t give up,” Gatta said.

“You just keep fighting off your back and you get back up on top,” he added.

And just like his father, Zubin plans to fight his way to the top.

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