CHENNAI: Forget India. Dangal grossed around Rs 23.1 crore (USD 3.5 million) in Hong Kong, which was the best ever for an Indian movie in that nation. Such was its fan following everywhere that the silver-screen offering shot up the fame and celebrity status of the Phogat sisters like never before. And, not many can handle such fame, because along with all the glamour comes the nasty — and sometimes stinging — gossip.
Babita Phogat, who was in the city for an event on Friday, experienced something similar while promoting the film last year. But now, that phase is over. With the Commonwealth Games ahead, Babita is once again relishing the chance to be on the mat. “The experience of being on a mat cannot be compared. I can’t tell you how it feels when you win a medal. I get goosebumps when I see our country’s flag going up after winning,” she told Express.
“Last year was very different: promoting films and posing for cameras. It is definitely a good feeling. But sometimes, it also disturbs you. Many people talk about it. Sometimes things will be true and sometimes they will not. I have read so many negative messages on social-media platforms, and it hurts.”
Barring Sakshi Malik, the 2016 Olympic campaign was disastrous for Indian wrestlers. While they made up for it with multiple medals at the Asian Wrestling Championships in New Delhi, the World Championship that followed was worse. It even led to many questions regarding the future of wrestling in the country. The only other tournament where India won medals was the Commonwealth Wrestling Championship, where a majority of the traditional wrestling nations did not take part. After all this, some athletes still look like they are not ready to compete with the elite. What about Babita, who has never been on the mat after Rio?
“It was my last tournament. After that, both my knees were injured badly. I couldn’t even participate in the Pro Wrestling League because my weight category (55kg) was not there.”
Refusing to give more details, the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist said that the injury was career-threatening. “I never thought I will return to the mat. Doctors asked me not to wrestle. But after some time, I started training, despite the pain. Only my family supported me. But I was strong.”
The quadrennial event happening in Australia this year has always been India’s forte. Many India athletes in other disciplines too have had a good history at the CWG.
However, coming back from a serious injury, nobody is sure about what lies in store for Babita. The 28-year-old stated that she even had to change her training regimen in order to smoothen out her recovery.
But, all of that doesn’t matter if there are no results to show. And Babita knows that more than anyone. “These days, I have made a lot of modifications. Some of the old methods are painful, and I am working on how to do it differently. I am training in Bengaluru right now. There is a camp scheduled in Lucknow as well. The federation is planning a trip to Japan in the first or second week of March. I hope I can go there and make my country proud.”