Exclusive: How Geeta Phogat lost 35 kgs post-pregnancy, trained her mind and staged a comeback
The experienced Indian women's wrestler essayed a stunning return to the mat since becoming a mother. She speaks to The Bridge on exactly how she prepared for the National Championships this year.
A comeback is never easy, but especially not when you are a wrestler attempting to shed post-pregnancy weight to compete in your category. But there are some milestones that Geeta Phogat is no stranger to crossing, and now the athlete to mark Indian women's unique ascent in the sport can add the shedding of a whopping 35 kilograms to it.
Talking to The Bridge in an exclusive interview, 32-year-old Phogat, who became a mother in late 2019, admits that this was not easy. And yet, she won the 59 kg silver medal at the Senior National Wrestling Championships in Gonda last week.
"Coming back to the mat after a long time was difficult. My body was completely imbalanced, I had to reduce around 35kgs after giving birth to my son, Arjun. Getting myself to where I was pre-pregnancy was a major hurdle," the 2010 Commonwealth Games champion says.
She has been training for almost 1 and a half years and believes that this helped her put up a good show in the Nationals.
"I have been training for 1 and a half years. For a long time, I was training just once in the day, but then slowly picked up the pace. I even attended the national camp in February-March in Lucknow earlier this year, and it helped in getting back confidence. There were minor injuries too in between, but everything worked out well by the times the Nationals arrived," Geeta states.
Competing with wrestlers much younger than her was another hurdle, but Phogat believes her experience held her in good stead.
"My competitors were younger than me, but then I never had that in my mind. For me, it was always about giving my best. And with the experience I have got, I was pretty confident of having a good performance in Gonda."
Phogat, however, continues to regret her flop outing in the final against the 2021 World Championships bronze medallist Sarita Mor and has already identified the areas she needs to improve on to compete at the highest level.
"I am still not over the final. I expected a close bout but never thought that I would lose 8-0 to Sarita. I was not able to give my 100% in the final and lacked physical strength. This is something I have to work on now," she says.
While getting her body ready for the mat took enormous efforts, to get her mind ready for competition, Phogat depended on her trusted support system.
"My family was always there to support me. From my husband to parents and sisters – all of them always encouraged me to make a comeback. There were times when I had self-doubt, but with them motivating me I was sure of returning. Besides, I like staying fit. So, all of this combined to keep me pumped for a comeback," she chuckles.
Phogat's return has also issued a warning bell to wrestlers competing in the Olympic category of 57kg, including the likes of young Tokyo Olympian Anshu Malik, Sarita Mor and others.
"I will not continue in the 59 kg category. My ultimate aim is the 2024 Paris Games, and I will switch sooner or later to 57 kg, which is an Olympic category," she asserts.
Though she is eyeing the 2024 Games, Phogat knows three years is a long time.
"We have a packed schedule in wrestling. My immediate goal is to compete in a few international tournaments, play in the Asian and Commonwealth Games and try and reach the top of my abilities as soon as possible," she says.