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Geeta Phogat: The girl that defied the norm

What does it take to achieve what has never been done before? How far do we have to push ourselves in an attempt to break the boundaries that society has set for us, limiting what we thought was previously possible? What do we do when doubts begin to creep in, weakening our resolve?

On the 15th of December 1988, a daughter was born to Mahavir Singh Phogat, a former wrestler and holder of the Dronacharya award for outstanding coaches in sports games. The girl was named Geeta Kumari Phogat.

Her father couldn’t have been more disappointed; Mahavir had expected a boy who he could train in the sport of wrestling, and who would carry on his legacy and catapult the Phogat name to even more prominence than he ever could have in his career. He wanted a successor, and Geeta was “just a girl.”

One day, however, Geeta and Babita, her younger sister was reported to their father for beating up a boy who spoke derogatory words at them. Mahavir realized her potential to become a wrestler and decided to begin coaching her in the sport.

The training was very gruelling as her father didn’t make it easy for her, taking her through rigorous early morning workouts and even going as far as shaving off her hair, making her look like a boy in the process. Despite all of this, Geeta went to school daily and faced emotional turmoil from the other pupils who called her names and made fun of her for being too boyish.

Unfazed and motivated by her father, Geeta went on to local wrestling tournaments. No other girls had participated and competed against boys, beating her weight class consistently and effortlessly. She quickly became a sensation and gained widespread local support. Geeta was ready to go bigger.

She won the junior and senior championships at the state and national levels before heading to the National Sports Academy in Patiala to train for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games, where she won the gold medal in Jalandhar, Punjab in 2009.

In 2010 she won India’s first-ever gold medal in women’s wrestling at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. Shefinished secondat the tournament in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2013, winning the silver medal in the women’s freestyle. She had done it. The exact thing everybody laughed at her about and said she could never do.

If she had given up, she would have been just another person passing through this world unnoticed and living in the grey areas of the greatness around them. Geeta Phogat is a beacon to all of us, reminding us that it costs more to let our dreams slip away and die than to get up even after getting knocked down a thousand times. This is the true meaning of resilience.


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