Alka Tomar: Women's wrestling in India much better now

Alka Tomar, the first female wrestler from the country to win a World championships medal, says a more conducive ecosystem has lifted the standard of women’s wrestling in India.

Alka Tomar holds the Indian flag after winning the gold medal, beating the two-time Olympic medallist Tonya Verbeek of Canada in the 59kg freestyle wrestling, in the 2010 Commonwealth Games.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Alka Tomar, the first female wrestler from the country to win a World championships medal, says a more conducive ecosystem has lifted the standard of women’s wrestling in India.

Alka, who bagged a bronze medal in 59kg in the 2006 World championships, said a host of factors has made women’s wrestling more competitive in the country in recent times.

“The overall scenario is very different and much better now. Top wrestlers like Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Sarita Mor and Pooja Dhanda have taken India closer to the world level. Pro Wrestling League (PWL) also helped. Good scientific support, sponsorship and publicity have attracted a lot of girls to the sport.

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“In our times, we used to hide injuries as we feared that we might not get a chance to appear in the trials. There was hardly any scientific support to make you fit in quick time,” Alka told Sportstar.

Alka – a Commonwealth Games champion, an Asian Games bronze medallist and the winner of several coveted medals – said technology is a boon for today’s wrestlers.

“We used to know about our opponents after landing in the country where we had to compete. Now, you know everything beforehand, see the video footage of your opponents and prepare.

“Even today, I don’t have the video of my best fight where I rallied to beat Chinese Su Lihui in the last second to win the Asian Games bronze (in 55kg) in Doha.”

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Alka, 36, who worked as a coach in the National camp before taking a break to look after her kids, said wrestlers should keep things simple.

“With the stress on attacking wrestling, one must enhance stamina and stay mentally alert for quick decision making. One should focus on three-four techniques and improve in ground wrestling.

“My favourite techniques were 'kunde', 'fitley' and 'Irani'. My coach, Jabbar Singh, used to tell me ‘If you practice a technique 500 times, then you will be able to apply it once or twice.’ That remains true even today,” said Alka, who oversees an akhara in her village Sisoli near Meerut and supports a few girls.