Geeta Phogat shows the importance of not being bogged down by traditional beliefs, which hold no value in society today. Her gritty approach and determination earned her accolades, but not before she was sneered for choosing her path. Read on:
BREAKING A TABOO
Geeta’s father Mahavir Phogat is a former wrestler who encouraged all five of his daughters to take up wrestling. Hailing from Balali village in Haryana, still rooted to orthodox values, where women are only supposed to wear traditional Indian clothing and keep their heads covered all the time. So getting into wrestling - a ‘manly’ sport - was offered with stiff resistance by the rest of the community.
WRESTLING WITH THE BOYS
With a lack of girls to practice with, Geeta was forced to train with the boys at the local dangal (wrestling pit). The rest of the villagers took severe objection to this as wrestling is a contact sport. They were discouraged, citing lack of marriage suitors for the girls and difficulties to earn a decent livelihood. But Geeta, backed by her father along with her younger sisters continued to chart their own course.
Things changed when Geeta became the first Indian woman to win the gold in the 55 kg category in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. With further medals in the World Wrestling Championships, Asian Wrestling Championships and Commonwealth Wrestling Championships, the attitude of the people in her village is changing. This has also resulted in government authorities putting their weight behind women’s wrestling with the sport being drafted into the Olympics in 2004.
THE OLYMPIC DREAM
Geeta suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury and spent most of 2015 recuperating and getting better than before. With a bronze in the Asian Championships in May 2015 and just missing out on a medal in the World Championships later in the year, the Haryanvi is keen to improve her game much more and make it to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.