When Mahavir Singh Phogat of Haryana's Balai village wished for his daughters to bring Olympic glory to the country, the first hurdle he faced was from the village elders, who were dead against the idea of the girls slugging it out in the mud in a sport they believed to be male-dominated.
But with victories in the international arena pouring in, the villagers started taking pride in the girls' accomplishments, and Mahavir's Olympic dream got a new lease of life. While the medals are still some distance away, on Sunday he reached the halfway mark.
Mahavir's elder daughter Geeta (23) became the first Indian woman wrestler to qualify for the London Olympics, sealing her berth by winning gold in the 55kg category at the ongoing Asian qualification tournament in Astana, Kazakhstan.
“While I'm happy that Geeta has qualified for London, nothing less than an Olympic gold will satisfy me,” said Mahavir, a former state-level wrestler, who quit his job in the Haryana State Electricity Board around a decade back to devote all his time for the training of his daughters.
Geeta’s feat makes Mahavir happy, but there's reason for disappointment too, his younger daughter, Babita (22), has been dropped from the national squad. Babita (48kg) also had been part the Astana-bound team, but was dropped on the pretext that she failed to maintain her weight in the Asian championships in February. Court intervention stopped fresh trials from taking place and the younger sister missed out.
“This was a golden opportunity for Babita to qualify for the Olympics too, but due to politics within the federation, her name was dropped. Now, we have to wait for the next qualification tournament,” said Mahavir.
Other than Geeta and Babita, gold and silver medallists respectively at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, their younger sisters — Priyanka (18), Ritu (17) and Vinesh (16) — also took up the sport and have won international medals. Priyanka and Vinesh are Mahavir’s late brother’s daughters. “Their achievements even helped my wife become the sarpanch last year,” said the proud father.