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The Phogat Sisters and the Wrestling Girls of India

18 November 2013 No Comment

The growth of women’s wrestling since the Olympics has been astronomical. In 2004, twenty countries sent women to wrestle at the Athens Games. That number jumped to 42 countries for the London Games in 2012. With the increase in weight-classes from four to six  for the Rio Games in 2016,  even more opportunities have been created for women in wrestling.

One of the reasons there has been such an upswing in wrestling’s popularity in India (a country of over a billion people) is the success of Geeta Phogat. Geeta, a female wrestler at 55kg, has earned medals in both the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships.

For the Geeta, wrestling is also a family affair — her father Mahavir Singh Phogat has trained Geeta and her sisters Babita and Ritu. Babita has already seen success, earning a silver medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

According to the Times of India, the Phogats have enjoyed an outsized  impact on the growth of women’s wrestling in India:

Babita & Geeta Phogat

The first woman wrestler to qualify for the Olympics [from India], Geeta Phogat, 24, is quietly leading a revolution in her remote village Balalli in Haryana which has a skewed sex ratio of just 873 women for every 1000 men. 

Geeta Phogat 3

At 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Geeta won gold, while her sister Babita clinched silver as the elder of the duo has not looked back, becoming the first woman wrestler [ from India] to compete in Olympics at London 2012.

Geeta Phogat 1

“Maine apne logon ki soch badali hai (I have changed the way people think of women wrestling),” Geeta said.

“In our village women are left to clean the house and milk the cattle so when I first entered the ring, I had to hear the criticism of people… Even my grandmother would tell me that girls should not wrestle, it’s a man’s game,” she added.

Geeta-Phogat 2


In India, successful male and female wrestlers are  rewarded with jobs with jobs inside their community, often with the railroad and police force. Things are no different for Phogat “Haryana promotes the sports persons by bestowing honorary police ranks on achieving medal at international stage as Geeta is now a Sub-Inspector.”

India's Geeta challenges Australia's Bensted during their 55kg women's freestyle wrestling match at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi

Her father is a hard taskmaster and it’s difficult to fool him, Geeta said, giving credit the Senior Phogat.

 Phogat takedownGeeta is a star in her village of Bhawani district but her father says she has to keep it going till getting an Olympic medal.“This is just the start and not the end, he keeps on telling me. I’ve seen the success of [Olympic boxing medalist] Mary Kom at the Olympics… We stayed in the same flat. If she can win a medal after being the mother of two, why can’t I?” Phogat signs off brimming with confidence.

Babita-Phogat 2





Geeta Phogat at the 2012 Woorld Championships against multiple world & Olympic champion Saori Yoshida: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqiRfhR_0EI

Geeta Phogat earning the bronze at the 2012 World Championships vs. Nataliya Synyshyn from Ukraine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_fpWE0mBWg




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