Babita, a Commonwealth Games gold medallist, stunned the inspirational Geeta Phogat in a local tournament. Babita’s wrestling career simply took off from there.
The Phogat sisters are a household name in India. More so following a movie - Dangal - chronicling their rise to stardom.
While Geeta Phogat is a legend in Indian wrestling, the one who paved the way for a generation of women wrestlers in an otherwise male-dominated sport, her younger sister Babita Kumari Phogat is similarly heralded.
But unlike her sister who first proved her mettle by beating boys in the dangals (mud fights) across Haryana, the 30-year-old Indian wrestler believes her journey kicked-off following with a win over her sister.
“I think the day I beat Geeta was the day people started taking note of me,” Babita Phogat said, sharing her story on an Instagram Live session with wrestler-turned-actor Sangram Singh.
“It was at a mat wrestling event in Bhiwani where I had to wrestle her for the title. It was a very different bout compared to the ones we would have at our akhara (mud pits).
“Usually, she would beat me hands down. But that day I don’t remember how, but I got the better of her,” she continued.
“The next day, it made it to the local newspaper as well. It’s very funny back home. Everyone was behind Geeta, teasing her that she lost to her baby sister. I think that gave me a lot of confidence that even I would win and probably make it big.”
Following her elder sister’s footsteps, Babita Phogat has gone on to achieve big on the wrestling mat.
While a silver medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games kick-started Babita’s run at the international stage, two years later the Indian wrestler won a World Championships medal.
The younger Phogat would add a few more medals to her kitty in the following years. But what most remember Babita Phogat for is her gritty show at the 2014 Commonwealth Games that helped her land a gold in the 55kg category.
“I remember, I had injured my knee a day before my bout. It was a ligament injury,” said Babita Phogat recalling the events that unfolded in Glasgow that year.
“I consulted the doctors in Glasgow and they minced no words. I had to skip to bouts. It was a Grade II tear,” they said.
“But then, I just couldn’t bear the fact that I was there in Glasgow and I couldn’t compete. I was like, it’s better to compete and lose than to not turn up. Especially when you’re representing your nation.
“I think it’s that passion to play for the flag that drove me that day. And today I have a gold medal to show for it,” she reasoned.