Geeta Phogat: ‘Discipline more important than marital status’

India’s first female wrestler to gain Olympic qualification (London 2012) talked about dealing with twists and turns, such as missing Rio 2016 and finding a life partner in fellow wrestler Pawan Kumar.

Geeta Phogat said that parents support is most critical for a girl in India taking up sport and excelling.   -  Special arrangement

Women wrestling achievers make news, attend launch of moves based on their family life and get invited to corporate brand launches. Geeta Phogat, the 55kg grappler for whom fame happened in 2016 following ‘Dangal’ launch, six years after winning the gold for India at 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, is in town for a mattress launch by Godrej Interio. “I wish to get back to normal life, training and competing on the mat, as soon as possible,” she said, after giving a sleep quotient test.

Life has changed since the film release across the nation, the high, followed by low profile on the wrestling front as she went through recovery and rehabilitation for a shoulder injury. India’s first female wrestler to gain Olympic qualification at London 2012, speaking on the sidelines of a brand launch, talked about dealing with twists and turns, such as missing Rio 2016 and finding a life partner in fellow wrestler Pawan Kumar. Geeta’s junior Sakshi Malik followed suit by getting engaged to fellow grappler.

Excerpts:

On women wrestlers choosing male wrestlers as life partners to continue competing post-marriage...

I don’t believe in this. There are numerous wrestlers still competing post-marriage. Female and male, married with children, they take part internationally and win medals. Hard work and discipline is more relevant for continuing sport, than marital status. When you win honour for India, support will come from your partner’s family. If they happen to be a wrestling family, like mine, support on and off the mat is easier to get, since they know the sport from inside.

On value of support from family and relatives to an Indian woman sports achiever...

Parents support is most critical for a girl in India taking up sport and excelling. Relatives and society don’t matter as much as father and mother standing by me. Parents have such power to uplift their children, they can go to any extent. Parents need to be strong, their mentality comes into play.

On wrestling’s future in India, against the backdrop of Olympic success, Pro Wrestling League and launch of a wrestling-based movie...

There is no stopping wrestling now. Sakshi Malik won an Olympic medal at Rio, where three women wrestlers qualified. In future competitions, India will reach a higher level. If you look back, 2010 Commonwealth Games was the turning point for the sport, specifically women wrestling.

On relevance in Haryana and the gesture by Sakshi Malik’s coach at Rio who carried her on his shoulder for a victory lap around the mat..

Sakshi had just won an Olympic medal for India, in the face of competition from so many nations. The joy has to be expressed openly for people to appreciate how much the medal meant for India. The victory lap around the mat by her coach, Sakshi holding the national flag and sitting on his shoulder, was a spontaneous gesture. He forgot everything else, at that moment you cannot control emotions. The coach did what came to his mind.

On retaining motivation for the future after fame from ‘Dangal’ and honours gained for India all these years...

Without wrestling, I have nothing. I had planned to compete till 2016 Rio Olympics, qualify for the Games and win a medal, if possible. I missed the Olympic Games due to a shoulder injury, got surgery done. Missing an Olympics still hurts. With so much affection from people, I feel like focussing on qualifying four next Olympic Games (Tokyo 2020) is my objective. Not only mine, but our family focus will be on doing our best for India.