GEETA PHOGAT, 23

WRESTLING, 55 KG Bhi­wani, Haryana

India Today - - SPORTS -

HER STORY Kar­nam Malleswari’s bronze at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 con­vinced Ma­habir Singh that his girls, too, could ex­cel in sport. A wrestler him­self, he set up an akhara in Bi­lali vil­lage near Bhi­wani, Haryana, and be­gan train­ing his daugh­ters. To­day, his ef­forts have paid off in the form of daugh­ters Geeta ( 55kg) and Babita ( 51kg). Geeta Phogat won three con­sec­u­tive wrestling golds at the Asian Cadet Cham­pi­onships since 2003. But the world of sport took notice of her only when she struck gold at the women’s wrestling event at the 2010 Com­mon­wealth Games in Delhi.

VAN­TAGE POINT She has the psy­cho­log­i­cal edge of be­ing the first ever fe­male wrestler to rep­re­sent the coun­try at the Olympics.

CHAL­LENGE AHEAD In­ter­na­tional wrestlers work more on speed and tech­nique, while In­di­ans only work on power. In­di­ans are still in the akhara age with train­ing that in­volves rope climb­ing and push- ups on bricks.

OLYMPIC RUN- UP She won a gold medal each at the Com­mon­wealth Wrestling Cham­pi­onship in 2009 and the 2010 Com­mon­wealth Games. She qual­i­fied for Lon­don by reach­ing the fi­nal of the Wrestling FILA Asian Olympic Qual­i­fi­ca­tion Tour­na­ment in As­tana, Kaza­khstan, in April. Since then, she has been train­ing in Colorado Springs, US, and Minsk, Be­larus.

“The vil­lage con­demned my fa­ther’s de­ci­sion of putting us into a man’s sport. To­day, those very peo­ple are in awe of our suc­cess. My strug­gle is against any­one who thinks girls aren’t strong enough.”

QA­MAR SIB­TAIN

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