GEETA PHOGAT, 23
WRESTLING, 55 KG Bhiwani, Haryana
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.”