In the Phogat tradition
Trans World Features/IBNS | 13 Feb 2017
In the Phogat tradition
Ritu Phogat, the third of the now famous Phogat sisters, has set her eyes on the coveted Olympics Gold and training under her hard taskmaster father. Shabina Akhtar in conversation with the young wrestler

Ritu Phogat, 22, the third of the now famous Phogat sisters, is quite active on social media. She tweets and updates her status regularly. She has even shown support to Zaira Wasim on social networking site, when the Dangal star was trolled by a faction of people in the Valley. But don’t let her witty tweets and one liner take her lightly, for the third Phogat girl is quite a fierce wrestler when she enters the ring. Precisely, for that reason, Ritu was the most expensive Indian Wrestler for the second season of the League. With two wins and two blocks, her scorecard for the League matches might not have been as expected. 


But then that is a thing of the past, something that Ritu wants to leave behind and concentrate more on her wrestling techniques and form. The youngest protégé of father and trainer Mahavir Phogat, Ritu wants to fulfil her father’s unrequited dream of bagging gold for the Olympics.


Excerpts of an interview:


What’s keeping you busy these days?


(Laughs) Training, training and training...


Training again? But hasn’t the Pro Wrestling League just got over?


My Olympics training had taken a back seat when the League was on. Now that it is over, I am fully concentrating on my Olympics preparation. Many might think that it’s quite early. But my dream is to get Gold for India and for that I have to undergo a rigorous training.

My father is pretty serious about that. And he is getting even stricter with me. As many have come to know, even today, bapu is really touchy when it comes to our training. He wants us to be the finest female wrestlers that India has ever had.


What’s your training schedule like?


My level of training is getting more difficult with every passing day. Papa expects me to be up by 4:00 am and train for a good three hours in the morning and then again for three hours in the evening. Even today, he reaches the akhada before us. He has so much zeal left in him even today. At times I feel that he is more focused than us, when it comes to winning Gold for the country. In fact, I feel relaxed when I am in sports camp. The trainers there are less demanding than papa.


What’s your diet like? 


It’s pretty uninteresting, on a given regular day, my breakfast comprises juices and almond shakes, made by papa. Lunch is the regular dal, chawal and dahi. Papa makes sure that I keep my meal healthy and don’t go for anything extravagant for my meals.


Do you cheat on your diet?


A. Hmmm... sometimes. But, to be honest, I don’t feel like cheating on that. I am quite used to eating what papa decides on.


What is it like to be a Phogat sister, professionally?


It means carrying forward a legacy left behind by Geeta and Babita. It’s scary and difficult. It at times puts me under immense pressure to perform. And that in a way, pushes me to do better, to carve a niche for myself, to walk out of their shadow and to be known as Ritu Phogat, the best wrestler in the town.


Whom do you admire the most?


A tricky question. Can I drop that? (Pauses) Well, to be honest if I am really asked to answer this question then it would be Geeta. As she is the one, who has had to pave the path for us, which we all are treading now. She has faced all the brunt and has made things easier for us. For me to have become a wrestler has been much easier for me.


All of you sisters are quite obedient?


Well, that’s because we respect our father a lot. He is a strict disciplinarian and we are what we are today because of him and his vision. We want him to stay that way always.


What will it be like if you had to wrestle one of the Phogat sisters for a match?


Well, we keep wrestling each other during our practice sessions back home. I have never had to wrestle for a match but if we ever had to, it will be interesting, as we know each other’s strength and weakness.