Geeta's rise from Bhiwani to BritainReported by Deccan Herald on Tuesday, 17 July 2012 (on July 17, 2012)
* To the small town of Bhiwani, it was bewildering to see Geeta Phogat and her sisters indulge in a sport like wrestling. *
But her father and former wrestler Mahavir Singh knew he was shaping stars of the future. He trained his daughters to compete on the bigger stage and instilled in them the ambition to be at the Olympic Games.
Seeing her elder sisters do well in the sport, Geeta, too, nursed the dream to follow in their footsteps. A medal for Sushil Kumar in the 2008 Beijing Games fired her ambitions to be on the grand stage and create a legacy of her own.
A gold medal for Geeta in the 2009 Commonwealth Wrestling Championship and the 2010 Commonwealth Games at home set the ball rolling and gave her the confidence to take on the best.
The 23-year-old booked a berth in the 55-kg category in the London Games after clinching gold at the Asian Qualifying Tournament in Astana, Kazakhstan, in April, becoming the first Indian woman wrestler to qualify for Olympics. Her younger sister Babita failed to make the cut.
"I still remember when Sushil Kumar won the gold medal. It was such a proud moment for us and we also wanted to do the same. My qualification will give hope to other women wrestlers that they can also do it. It is sad that Babita could not make it. We have been practicing together at home and at camps.
She has been travelling with me as my sparring partner," Geeta said.
The start, Geeta admitted was not easy. "My father and grandfather both were wrestlers. Our financial condition was not very good, so my father decided to coach us. It was not easy to do that in a small town like Bhiwani. People were shocked to see girls training to be the wrestlers.
"But my father trained us with all seriousness. We would compete with boys and even beat them. At that time we used to train in mud, with Commonwealth Games we got all the facilities.
"As our understanding grew, we also developed interest in the sport and when I won the Asian Cadet Championships, I was hooked."
Slowly they gained acceptance. "People at Bhiwani started appreciating us and after my qualification, sent in their best wishes. My father takes a lot of pride in her daughters representing the country.
He now wants me to go for a medal," she said.
She, too, is slugging it out in her quest for Olympic glory and went through rigorous training in Patiala before leaving for Colorado Springs in US along with the team of Olympic qualified wrestlers. She will go to Minsk, Belarus on July 19 for another training stint before heading straight to London.
"The preparations have been very good. The training abroad helped me to spar with participants from other countries. I have improved a lot since I qualified. I have worked on my weaker areas and made my strong points even stronger," said Geeta, who rates wrestlers from Japan and Canada as her chief opponents.
"My confidence is high. I have got gold in qualification round and even beat some of the top players recently. I am taking the wishes of my country and I will do my best for a medal."
The boxers brought Bhiwani to the world map last time. Perhaps, it is due for another reckoning.
Links: Full news story
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