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‘Phogat sisters’ build their legacy in wrestling

Geeta missed the Commonwealth due to an injury, but her sisters filled the void.

Andrew Amsan  New Delhi | 9th Aug 2014

Vinesh Phogat and Babita Kumari are sisters of international wrestler Geeta Phogat | Photo: Sanjay Vishwakarma

inesh Phogat, gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games 2014 in Glasgow, experienced "really tense moments" prior to her match. Phogat was up against England's Yana Rattigan in the Women's 48 kg wrestling event.

Her cousin, Babita Kumari also won the gold medal in the 55kg wrestling event in Glasgow; Babita also won the silver medal in CWG in 2010. Their exploits were closely followed by their family back in Haryana. Vinesh and Babita are sisters of international wrestler and 2010 CWG wrestling gold medallist Geeta Phogat.

The wrestling trio is now popularly referred to as "the Phogat sisters". They come from Bilali, a tiny hamlet in the Bhiwani district of Haryana. It was not long ago that this village was known for its staunch patriarchal views. Women were not encouraged to travel beyond village boundaries. Marriages were fixed for girls at young ages and often without consent. Babita and Geeta, trained by their father Mahavir Phogat, returned gloriously from the 2010 CWG and things changed for the better. They had won gold and silver medals respectively in women's 55kg category.

"Things have changed a lot in our village; people are sending their girls to take part in sporting activities. The doors had been already opened by Geeta and Babita for girls to come and join," said Vinesh the youngest of the Phogat sisters.

However, she explained that people want immediate results. "A month or two goes in training and they (parents) start saying, 'ab tak koi medal toh aaya nahi abh ghar aaja' (You haven't got any medals so far so come back). It should not be so, I have trained for about 12 years, and now I've got a gold medal. They should be more persistent," said Vinesh.

Both Babita and Vinesh credit their success to elder sister Geeta who helped them in their training despite being injured. Geeta discussed the tactical flaws which Louisa Porogovska of England had in her strategy, which enabled Babita to beat the latter. "Geeta fought her once and understood her tactics. It was because of her help that I could win the match," said Babita. Vinesh showered Babita with praises. She said that Babita took care of whatever she needed. "She is elder to me and therefore it's her duty to guide me and provide me with whatever I need or else I will complain about her to our family," said Vinesh in a jovial tone.

Babita who is the more experienced of the two has seen Vinesh develop as a wrestler. "We both are training partners and get support from each other. It's great to have a training partner who is also your friend. We get to share things with each other," said Babita. On being asked, who would fare better if Babita and Geeta compete against each other, Babita after a short pause responded, "If there's a match between both of us then I'll win it."

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