New Mother Geeta Phogat Sets Sight on Postponed Tokyo Olympics

Seven months after giving birth to her first child, Geeta Phogat is aiming to make a comeback at the Tokyo Olympics.

Olympic Sports
4 min read

A pathbreaker among women wrestlers, Geeta Phogat is aiming to conquer more unchartered territory as she’s already started training for a comeback targeted at the Tokyo Olympics, just seven months after giving birth to her first child.

The first Indian woman to win a World Championships medal in wrestling, Geeta is a Gold Medalist from the 2010 Commonwealth Games as well as a two-time Bronze Medallist at the Asian Championships. She married fellow wrestler Pawan Kumar Saroha in 2016 and gave birth to their son, Arjun, in December of 2019.

“I thought I would start training a little while after giving birth to my son but with the Tokyo Olympics now getting postponed by a year, I have started training already to try and qualify for the Games. Now that I’m a mother, it is my wish that my son watches me compete,” the 31-year-old told The Quint.

New Mother Geeta Phogat Sets Sight on Postponed Tokyo Olympics
(Gfx: Shruti Mathur/The Quint)

The Tokyo Olympics were originally scheduled to be held from 24 July to 9 August 2020 but have now been postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic, thus giving Geeta an extra year to prepare for the Games.

She had not participated in the national trials as she was pregnant at the time but can now make a fresh bid once the pandemic’s spread is under control and wrestlers start taking to the mat.

But when did she make this decision, to give Tokyo a shot? Her answer is simple, it really wasn’t a decision to be made.

“My family always asked me what my plans were, before I gave birth to Arjun as well. They asked if I had quit wrestling but, quite frankly, it is not a thought I have entertained till now... that I had quit wrestling or I was going to give it up. So, when I wasn’t thinking on those lines, it was obvious that when the Olympics got postponed, I would give it a shot,” said Geeta, the eldest of the Phogat sisters.

New Mother Geeta Phogat Sets Sight on Postponed Tokyo Olympics
(Gfx: Shruti Mathur/The Quint)

Getting back on the mat may still be a few weeks away, due to COVID-19 restrictions, but Geeta knows once she starts her comeback bid, waiting on the mat for her will be her father Mahavir Phogat, who single-handedly guided Geeta and her sisters through the early years of their wrestling careers.

“When I gave birth and came home, my father asked me if I wanted to still continue wrestling and I said yes. He told me that I would have to work very hard this time and I would have to work twice as hard as last time. I told him I was ready. I can’t think of anything other than wrestling,” said Geeta.

New Mother Geeta Phogat Sets Sight on Postponed Tokyo Olympics
(Gfx: Shruti Mathur/The Quint)

While she may be one of the strongest women in the country, she went through one problem that many other female celebrities are forced to endure – body shaming.

She laughs while recollecting the experience, about how she was targeted on social media because of the weight she gained while she was pregnant.

“Sometimes, when I post pictures, people comment and say I have become fat and I need to lose weight. People can say whatever they want. When I read the comments, I laugh sometimes, I don’t get angry. That is their thinking. What they see, they form their opinion. Some people are intelligent, so they understand I’ve given birth so it’s natural that I have gained weight,” she says.

New Mother Geeta Phogat Sets Sight on Postponed Tokyo Olympics
(Gfx: Shruti Mathur/The Quint)

Now, as she treads her path and once again looks to conquer new territory, Geeta’s first big move will be to return to the mat and start training with other wrestlers. India’s national wrestling camp is expected to start some time in the first half of August but having not competed in over a year, Geeta will not be called for it.

Once she proves her fitness and returns to the weight of her category, only then can she make a bid for Tokyo, but there will be many hurdles before that.

Like qualifying as India’s candidate in the 62-kg category, where she has rivals like Sakshi Malik and Sonam Malik – a two-time Cadet World Champion who is currently India’s top pick in the category having beaten Sakshi twice in the trials over the last year.

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