Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How Mahavir Singh Phogat Churned Out Six Wrestling Champs From His Home

“What you are doing for your girls, you will see one day that it will bring you great happiness. So keep doing it, don’t be scared, face your difficulties like you face opponents, and be deaf to the criticism.” This is what Mahavir Singh Phogat‘s coach Padma Shri Chandgi Ram told him which gave him the strength to create world-class wrestlers out of his daughters.

A powerful Dangal trailer is out and has crossed 20 million views in five days. All because super daddy Mahavir Singh Phogat nurtured his four daughters and two daughters of his brother to fight against regressive societal norms set for women in Haryana. He pushed them to prove that medals and accolades follow sweat, blood and hard work, and not genders.

He is a real life hero who believed that it is not necessary to raise your daughter like a princess. Instead, he made them tough, brave and confident to face the battles of life in and outside the wrestling ring. All the six Phogat sisters are trained in wrestling by Mahavir Singh Phogat. While Geeta, Babita, and Vinesh are international players, Ritu has won the gold medal at the national championship and Priyanka and Sangita have won medals at an age-level international championship.

Mahavir was born in a remote Haryana village named Balali and was a renowned wrestler of his times. He defeated his opponents one after other and does not remember losing any fight. Despite passionate wrestler but failed at the top level of the game. However, he made sure his daughters bring the glory he could not achieve. People used to make fun of them as till then wrestling was only considered as a men’s sport.

Tough Master

Mahavir Singh has been awarded the Dronacharya Award by the Government of India this year for his exceptional wrestling and coaching skills. He was a tough coach who made the Phogat sisters work very hard.

“If we lost to them in a race or fell weak before them, father would hit us,” Geeta said in the Satyamev Jayate episode. “He would scold us too. We often think that if we had a coach like our father we would have never gone back. We would have come home.”

Mahavir made his daughter run on the fields and work as hard as the male wrestlers. When he could not find girls to practice with his daughters, Phogat got wrestler boys – a move which made the villagers furious as it was unimaginable to make girls compete with the opposite sex. Their struggle was by no means easy in a region that rages over gender roles and sexuality.

Inspired by a Woman

In 2000, when weightlifter Karnam Malleshwari won Olympics bronze for India, it inspired Mahavir to train his daughters to become world champions in wrestling. He believed that his daughters are equally capable of victory and took his daughters to Sports Authority of India centre in Sonipat for further training.

The post first appeared in KenFolios - Only interesting stories.

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