Several young girls will now take up our sport: Geeta Phogat

Wrestler Geeta Phogat believes that Sakshi Malik’s historic bronze medal at Rio is bound to break the gender stereotypes associated with the sport in India. Geeta, Sakshi and other women wrestlers have often spoken about the difficulties involved in being accepted in this traditionally male bastion, but things are set to change.

Geeta Phogat. Photo Sushil Kumar Verma

“Usually, it is the men who are given importance. But now, people view women wrestlers as equals. We have been winning international medals in events like the Commonwealth Games for a few years now.

Praise for Sakshi

“And, with Sakshi becoming the first female wrestler from India to win an Olympic medal, we will surely get our due now. A lot of young girls will now take up our sport,” Geeta, the 2010 Commonwealth Games champion, told The Hindu on Thursday.

“I hope Indian parents will allow girls to choose their own destiny. If Sakshi can be successful in her field, so can any other woman in our country.”

Geeta praised Sakshi for overcoming the odds.

“I’m an aam larki (common girl). Sakshi too is from an ordinary family. We had to establish ourselves without any sponsors or facilities. Yes, JSW Sports has come on board to support the both of us of late, but we have worked hard to get this,” she said.

Tears for Vinesh

While Sakshi scaled a new high, her compatriot Vinesh Phogat — Geeta’s cousin — fell short in heartbreaking fashion. She was forced to quit after suffering a knee injury during her 48kg quarterfinal bout.

“I started to cry when I saw her suffering on television,” said Geeta.

There is no doubt that Geeta, 27, would prefer to be in the thick of action herself, rather than watching from the sidelines. A few months ago, the Wrestling Federation of India suspended her for “indiscipline”, which dealt a severe blow to her chances of grabbing a Rio spot.

Sakshi, who competes in the same weight category as Geeta, took the ball and ran with it.