With the Aamir Khan starer ‘Dangal’ releasing next week and his biography ‘Akhada’ released on Thursday, wrestling legend Mahavir Singh Phogat said his goal was to see one of his trainees bag a medal at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
He was interacting with media persons at a celebratory ‘Face-to-Face’ at the Chandigarh Press Club on Thursday where his biography ‘Akhada’, penned by sports journalist Saurabh Duggal, was released on the occasion. Accompanying Mahavir at the function were his wife Daya Kaur, daughters Ritu and Sangeeta and son Rahul.
Mahavir, who opened the way for girls to wrestling, empowerment and success, in the largely gender prejudiced state of Haryana, said he was training girls other than those from his family and that he had some 25 students. “I am willing to take up the challenge and train the poorest of poor girls, provided they have a passion for wrestling.”
Known to be a hard taskmaster as picturised in the tough coaching of the Phogat sisters in the song ‘Haanikarak Bapu’ in ‘Dangal’ , Sangeeta and Ritu recalled how they would be in the ground at 3 am sharp with their father having made it there an hour before and put through every possible rigour.
Ritu said, “If we lagged behind the boys who trained there, our father would pull us up and say that since we did not eat less than them, so we should also perform at par”. Sangeeta added “If we faltered, he would hurl what he could at us, but he was also there to embrace us fondly when we did well. We owe much to him.”
When asked if the state government extended him help in any manner to groom international wrestlers, Mahavir replied, “No there wasn’t any help from the government and I did what I did with my determination. In fact, Haryana government is always late, the Arjuna Award comes first and then the Bheem Award follows to sportspersons.”
When biographer Saurabh was asked if the book was hitching a piggyback ride on the film, his said, “The film was thought of much earlier and I completed the book in six months. But my association with the Phogats dates back to 2009 and since then I have followed their contribution to wrestling.” On being asked to compare the book and with the film, he said that the two are different genres and added: “The film begins with the birth of Mahavir’s eldest daughter and tells the story till the Commonwealth Games, covering 20 years. On the other hand, the biography begins with the birth of Mahavir, tracing till date the making of the phenomenon who gave the gift of this sport to his daughters and nieces.”