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Reel and real life brushed far too close when Babita Phogat and father Mahavir Phogat risked spending the duration of his daughter's match outside the Carrara Sports Arena ' just as Aamir Khan who portrayed him in the Bollywood film Dangal had, in the film's fictional depiction of Geeta Kumari's Delhi Commonwealth final.
This is not the first time the problem of a father being present at his daughter's Commonwealth match has arisen, but this is the first time Mahavir ' who trained six women in a state of few women achievers ' had travelled to Australia to see Babita fight. Ultimately, however, the Australian team shared its tickets with the Phogats, after Babita's requests to both the Indian Olympics Association and chef-de-mission Vikram Sisodia were of no avail. With Mahavir in the stands, Babita had a relatively easy morning, defeating even her tallest opponent in the women's 53kg category, Nigeria's Bose Samual 2-1. In her final match versus Canadian Diana Weicker, Babita Kumari was penalised for passivity ' a fact which might be reflective of the problem plaguing India's first wrestling family. Babita's silver in a weight category which had just five participants, adds to India's escalating medal tally at the Games, but what does it mean for the Phogat clan which has, for the past two years been trying to match their legendary emergence to similar performance? As per the passivity clause, wrestlers are required by rule to give their best physical effort throughout the bout. Babita had a point taken for it and her sisters too have been looking less than active. Geeta, after creating history as the first woman wrestler from India to win gold in the CWG, remarkably failed to qualify for the Games this time. Geeta, especially, had to ironically occupy the seat at the studio of a television channel, which made a whole segment about her 'reactions' to her sister's CWG match. A presence on television ' the wildly popular Pro-Wrestling League sees five of the cousins together, often against each other ' has not been particularly rewarding, with neither Geeta nor Babita Phogat, Sangeeta, Vinesh and Ritu featuring in the list of wrestlers with the most impressive statistics in the league. Gold has eluded the sisters of late, the most recent medal being the silver won by Ritu in the 2017 Under-23 World Wrestling Championships. The medal performance on Thursday showed a sluggish, at times even tired Babita ' at complete odds with the wrestler who gave a stirring, all-out, round-of-16 performance in the Rio Olympics but lost. While the history of the podium reflects a tried and tested athlete ' Babita Phogat is now the only woman wrestler to have medalled in three successive Commonwealth Games ' the question rises as to whether the Phogats are in danger of losing their grip on Indian wrestling greatness.