The original Phogat girl wins silver on Nationals return

Returning to the mat after 2018 post a maternity break, 2010 CWG gold medallist wrestler Geeta Phogat loses to Sarita Mor in the in the 59kg final of national wrestling
Geeta Phogat (HT Photo)
Geeta Phogat (HT Photo)
Published on Nov 12, 2021 11:30 PM IST
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Celebrated wrestler Geeta Phogat marked her return to competitive wrestling with a silver medal at the ongoing Senior National Championships, going down 8-0 to Sarita Mor here on Friday. Phogat, the country's first female wrestler to win a Commonwealth Games gold (in 2010) and the first woman from India to qualify for the Olympics in wrestling (2012), competed at Haryana Senior State Wrestling Championships last month after the maternity break she took in 2018. A first-place finish there paved her way to the Nationals, where Mor proved a handful.

Mor, 26, was beaten by Phogat, 32, the last time they met at the Senior Nationals final, in 2017. This time, Mor rode on the confidence of a World Championships bronze that she won just last month, beating Sweden's Johanna Lindborg 8-2.

Dominating the proceedings early with her swift wave of attacks, she jumped to a 2-0 lead within the first 30 seconds of the bout, and never let Phogat play to her strengths. Another two-point throw early in the next period put Mor in a position of strength that ultimately proved unassailable.

Phogat was given a first-round bye, and she pocketed her next bout by fall against Delhi's Ravita. Her semi-final against Maharashtra's Bhagyashree saw her cruise to a 5-0 win before she ran into Mor. Representing Railways, Mor came into the final on the heels of a 10-0 rout of Bihar's Manju Kumari. In the summit clash, she brought out her excellent ground game to outfox her much-experienced opponent.

"Ground wrestling is my strength and I am happy that I stuck to it, and it paid off. My performance at the Worlds definitely gave me a lot of belief coming into this competition, and today I won my seventh national crown. When you win against a wrestler like Geeta Phogat, it gives you a lot of confidence. I salute her spirit to make a comeback at her age and set an example for all women," Mor said.

Phogat was honest in her assessment. "I am not satisfied with my performance. There were certain things that I wanted to execute, but couldn't. I wasn't able to give my 100 percent in the final," she said. "There was no problem with my speed, stamina, or endurance. I just feel my mind was not entirely clued in. I think the fact that Sarita Mor has recently won a Worlds bronze played on my mind and affected my confidence."

By virtue of their top-two finish, both Mor and Phogat have booked their ticket for the Commonwealth Championships, to be held in Pretoria, South Africa, from December 3-5.

"I am completely looking forward to it," Phogat said. "Next year is all about Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, and I am also gunning for 2024 Paris Olympics. More than the results, my priority is to get as many competitions under my belt as possible. Frankly, I have missed this competitive feeling and it feels really nice to be back on the mat, competing. I don't think motherhood or age should stop you from chasing your dreams."

Phogat, whose CWG medal as well as the 2012 World Championships bronze had come in the non-Olympic 55kg class, took the mat in 59 kg category here. She weighed around 90 kgs during pregnancy, but said the 30-kg weight-cut is more a mental process than a physical hurdle.

"Ultimately, it all boils down to your mental strength. Once you put your mind to anything, it happens. Gradually, I'll move to 57 kg category (Olympics)."

Phogat could have opted for the 62 kg Olympic class too, considering her maintenance weight hovers around 63kg. She, however, chose to make way for her sister Sangeet Phogat who was marking her comeback after three years. Phogat junior set aside her recurring knee injury earlier this year to ace the World Championships trials. She made the cut for the Oslo tourney, only to be ousted in the opening round. Here, displaying improved agility and commendable mat sense, the 23-year-old hammered Delhi's Ritu Rani in a lopsided final to cruise to a 10-0 win and seal a Nationals crown.

Among other categories, U23 World Championships silver medallist Shivani Pawar continued her fine run with a thrilling win over Delhi's Simran - a junior World Championships bronze medallist, in the 50kg category. Pawar, representing Madhya Pradesh, defeated Tokyo Olympian Seema Bisla in the semi-final before trumping Simran by fall in a hotly-contested final.

Pooja Gehlot, another upcoming wrestler with a silver at the U23 Worlds in 2019, aced the 53kg division in the absence of Vinesh Phogat.


    Shantanu Srivastava is an experienced sports journalist who has worked across print and digital media. He covers cricket and Olympic sports.

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