What comes to your mind when you hear of ‘wrestling’? First, is undoubtedly the Pehelwan-in-a-loincloth-rolling-in-mud image. What comes after that? Dara Singh? Sushil Kumar?
In a sport dominated by men, the Phogat sisters have carved a niche for themselves. Babita and Geeta hail from the Bhiwani district of Haryana, a state infamous for its skewed sex ratio and patriarchy. In such circumstances, the Phogat sisters’ achievements sound remarkable indeed.
Trained by their father Mahavir Phogat, the sisters started spending time in the muddy arena from a very young age. Mahavir Phogat, a former wrestler, left no stone unturned in their coaching. Geeta and Babita were sweating it out in matches against boys by the time they were 12. Their stepping stone was the shift to National Sports Camp in Patiala, a breeding ground for India’s national fencing, boxing, wrestling and weightlifting teams. Here is a look at how the sisters came up the ranks.
Babita Kumari – Babita bagged a silver medal in 51 kg freestyle wrestling at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. It was followed by a bronze in 2012 World Wrestling Championship. However, this was not enough to satisfy her hunger for medals. Perseverance and hard work paid off when Babita won gold in the in the 55 kg category at 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Geeta Phogat – Geeta did even better than her sister at the 201o Commonwealth Games. She became the first Indian to get gold in women’s wrestling at the Commonwealth Games. The first ever Indian female wrestler to qualify for the Olympics, Geeta also won gold in the 2009 Commonwealth Wrestling Championship. And to top it off, she won three consecutive medals in the Asian Cadet Championships in 2003, 2004 and 2005 respectively.
A Family Heritage
The Phogat sisters have inspired their youngest sister as well as their cousins. Now, Ritu (Mahavir Phogat’s youngest daughter), Priyanka, and Vinesh (Mahavir’s nieces) too have joined wrestling with Vinesh.
Ritu, Priyanka and Vinesh clinched gold in the 44kg, 51kg and 49 kg respectively at the Asian Cadet Championships. Vinesh went on to bring another gold for the country in Glasgow Commonwealth Games and a Bronze in the 2014 Asian Games.
Focus and Determination of the Phogat Sisters
“We had to face a lot of trouble during the initial stages. People made fun of us, saying wrestling is a men’s game and women should just stay at home. They used to ridicule us for wearing shorts. But thankfully my parents did not falter under the pressure”
The immense support the Phogat sisters have received from their family is what has kept them going. The Phogat sisters have shown that the shape of their roti doesn’t matter. What matters is the colour of their medal.
The Phogat sisters – Inspiration to many
The Phogat sisters’ feat has not only helped push India’s wrestling forward but they have also inspired many other women to emerge from the shackles of patriarchy. The way Mahavir Phogat fought against the society and led his daughters to glory is exemplary. The entire Phogat family is thus a shining beacon of courage and we at Sports Rediscovered salute their indomitable spirit.