This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Babita Kumari dished out her best at the 2015 World Championship in Las Vegas but fell in the quarterfinal hurdle to a formidable Chinese opponent – in fact, she was the lone Indian woman grappler to reach the quarterfinal stage even as most of her team-mates made early exits. The 2012 World Championship bronze medallist is now setting her sights on qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics after none of the Indian women grapplers could secure Olympic berths at the 2015 World Championship. The 25-year-old Haryana girl, employed with Haryana Police as an Inspector, talks, amongst other things, about the Bollywood movie Dangal, in which Aamir Khan is playing the role of her father Mahavir Singh Phogat in an exclusive interview.
Q Among all the eight women wrestlers, you are the only grappler to make it to the quarterfinal stage of the 2015 World Championship even as some experienced and talented girls like your elder sister Geeta Phogat, Vinesh Phogat and Navjot Kaur made early exits. How would you sum up our women grapplers’ performance?
Q You defeated wrestlers from Colombia, Spain and Germany before going down to China’s Zhong Xuechun in the last eight stage. What went wrong for you in that quarterfinal bout?
No bout is easy in the World Championship and all my three wins were achieved with a lot of effort. As for my quarterfinal bout against Zhong I think it was an evenly fought contest but she was strong in defence. I tried to be aggressive but she countered it with her defence.
Q The 2015 World Championship had Olympic berths on offer. None of the Indian women grapplers sealed Olympic berths in Las Vegas. Do you think the Olympic qualifying test will be tough?
I don’t think so. We have a few more tournaments through which we can qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. We are upbeat about qualifying.
Q You had won a bronze medal in the 2012 World Championship in Canada along with your elder sister Geeta Phogat and later a gold medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games among other medals. Which has been your most satisfying medal-winning moment so far?
I think both medals – bronze at the 2012 World Championship and gold at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games are my most cherished medal-winning moments.
Q You won a gold medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and a few months later lost in the semifinals of the 2014 Asian Games.
Competition in Asian Games is much tougher than Commonwealth Games as wrestlers from China, Japan and Kazakhstan are counted among the world’s best. At the Commonwealth Games, there is good competition but not like Asian Games.
Q Japan’s Saori Yoshida has been enjoying a dominating presence in your weight category – she won three Olympic gold medals, thirteen world titles and four Asian Games gold medals. Your thoughts.
She has a lot of experience and has won so many medals over the last twelve years or so. I played her once and lost. She has got terrific speed backed by her enormous international experience.
Q The Pro Wrestling League is coming up this year – do you think it is the best thing to happen to Indian wrestling?
Absolutely! Indian wrestling will get a big boost from the PWL. Many top international grapplers will be taking part and it will be a great exposure for the Indian wrestlers.
Q Women wrestling is concentrated in a few pockets in India – do you think there is a need for the sport to become popular across the length and breadth of the country?
Women wrestlers are coming up from Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Maharashtra. I’m sure the PWL will play a big role in generating more interest among youngsters of other states to take up wrestling. I’m confident that women wrestling will spread across the country.
Q A Bollywood movie ‘Dangal’ is made on how your father Mahavir Singh Phogat groomed his four daughters for wrestling and helped them reap laurels for the country.
We are excited and happy to know that actor Aamir Khan will play the role of my father Mahavir Singh Phogat. It is good that the sport of wrestling is getting promoted through this movie.