New Delhi: Ostracised initially for taking up wrestling, five Bhiwani girls from the same family have now become the pride of their village after all of them bagged gold medals at the Asian Cadet Championship.
The proud father, Mahabir Singh Phagot, who had once been criticised by the Balali village elders is basking in the glory of his daughters and has been honoured with the title of “Lion of the Village”.
Three of the triumphant five are his own daughters, while the other two are of his late elder brother.
The trio of Priyanka (16), Ritu (15) and Vinesh (14) bagged gold medals in the recently-held Asian Cadet Wrestling Championship in Pune to join the league of their senior cousin sisters Geeta (21) and Babita (20), both former Asian cadet gold medalists.
Babita had also appeared in Junior World Championship in 2007 and won the silver medal.
Both Geeta and Babita have also made it to the senior national wrestling squad for the World Championships in Denmark next month and will also compete in an invitational tournament in Poland this month.
“I can’t recall any other instance where five wrestler sisters from the same home have won gold medals and are competing internationally in a single year,” said G S Mander, President of Wrestling Federation of India.
“This is a historic feat,” Mander added.
The father, meanwhile, feels equally triumphant but rues the lack of support for the girls.
“It’s like a dream come true for me. I am very proud of them as they have attained success despite having no facilities and financial aid from the government,” Mahabir Singh told reporters.
“I was also a wrestler and pursued it with passion. I had made it clear from the very beginning that I’ll make all five of them wrestlers,” Singh said.
While Babita, Geeta and Ritu are his own daughters, “Priyanka and Vinesh are the kids of my late brother who died alongwith his wife in a car accident five years back.”
“I have brought them up as my own kids,” he said.
Recalling their journey, Geeta said she and her sisters practiced with the male members of their family.
“We started practicing at the age of seven with our male cousins in the mud and strengthened our technique there for four-five years. There was no mat facility available for us despite the fact that we made several requests for them from the state sports authority,” Geeta told reporters.
“But we went on without complaining as we had only one thing in mind – to fulfill our father’s dream,” she said.
Mahabir Singh, meanwhile, has also made a promise to his village and the country, “One day, my daughters will bring a Olympic gold medal.”
First Published: Sunday, August 09, 2009, 16:55