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Iron woman Geeta enters history books

Bhiwani was known primarily for its male boxers. Now, 21-year-old Geeta is leading the charge of the women’s brigade. On Thursday, she became the first-ever Indian woman to win a gold medal in wrestling in the Games history. Siddhanth Aney reports

other Updated: Oct 08, 2010 01:18 IST
Siddhanth Aney

Bhiwani was known primarily for its male boxers. Now, 21-year-old Geeta is leading the charge of the women’s brigade. On Thursday, she became the first-ever Indian woman to win a gold medal in wrestling in the Games history.

India’s women wrestlers also picked up a silver and bronze on the day. There are still 10 gold medals to play for. The hosts, with five gold, two silver and three bronze, have already bettered the previous best of nine medals achieved in 1970.

“I am very satisfied with the performance of the girls. The Canadians have the strongest women wrestlers in the world, but we are closing the gap quickly. With a little more time, and a little more hard work, we will be among the best," said Piala Ram Sondhi, coach of the women’s team.

For Geeta, the 55kg win was more than just a sporting triumph. When she and her sisters were encouraged to take up wrestling by their father, the family was laughed at and ostracised. She was all smiles when HT caught up with her as she waited to pick up her prize.

“I feel vindicated. All the effort has paid off. We have always said girls are as tough as boys, and as we keep winning medals, we are now the pride of our village. Every time we fight, we think of our father, and how much he fought to get us into the sport. This win is for him.”

Her sister, 20-year-old Babita, will also be going for gold on Friday.

“After I beat the Nigerian girl in the semis, I was sure of gold. The Australian is relatively new to the sport,” said Geeta. She took the first round of the final comfortably, 3-0. In the second, she pulled out all stops and pinned down Emily Bensted to win. Final score: 3-0, 8-0.

Nirmala Devi was the other Indian who made it to the final, in the 48 kg category. Though she was up against the Beijing Olympics gold medalist Carol Huynh, Nirmala made a confident start. She defended well and even opened up a lead, before Huynh grabbed three points in the last five seconds to win the first round. In the second too, Nirmala went ahead, but the Olympic champ’s experience showed, and the Canadian managed to close out the bout.

Suman Kundu faced a number of good fighters in the 63 kg class. After losing in the semis, she faced Zurnicke Geringer in the repechage final. Suman won the first round comfortably, but Geringer came back and forced a decider. Suman was more focused after the breather though, and claimed the bronze with a 3-0 final round win.