Indian wrestler Geeta Phogat recently claimed that 18-year-old Sonam Malik has the advantage of youth and fearlessness on her side while 28-year-old Sakshi Malik has the benefit of skill and experience.
Phogat is taking part in the Women’s National Trials which begins in Lucknow on Monday at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) center. India's team for next month's Asian Olympic qualifiers will be picked based on the trials.
32-year-old Geeta Phogat won the gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and bronze at the 2012 World Championships bronze in the 55kg category. However, she has not been very active in the competitive arena since failing to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
After marrying fellow wrestler Pawan Saroha in 2016, Phogat gave birth to her first child in late 2019 and is now preparing for a comeback in the 62 kg category.
Meanwhile, Sonam Malik is a rising star in Indian wrestling. Last year, Sonam defeated Sakshi Malik twice to establish herself as one of the top female wrestlers in the country.
Both Sonam Malik and Sakshi Malik will also be competing in the 62kgs category, along with Geeta Phogat, in the women's trials.
"Sonam is emerging but when it comes to skill and experience Sakshi is better," Geeta Phogat said. "Sonam has nothing to lose because she is still coming through the ranks. When I was at my peak, Sakshi had nothing to lose and now the same goes for Sonam. Sonam is at that stage of her career from where she can go fearlessly without worrying much."
Phogat required special permission from the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) to join the national camp and has been working hard to get back to her former fitness levels.
"I am still not in the form that I need to be in before the trials," Phogat continued. "I started training about six months back. I was working out at home, lost 20-25 kgs post-delivery but I needed to train on the mat, needed training partners so I joined the national camp. I needed to assess myself, so I approached WFI and they allowed me, thanks to the federation, I am preparing for a comeback."
My husband Pawan is the force behind my comeback: Geeta Phogat
During the interview, Geeta Phogat credited her husband, fellow wrestler, Pawan Saroha, for supporting her and inspiring her to make the comeback.
27-year-old Pawan Sahora won a bronze medal for India at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in the 86 kg weight class. The couple have a son, Arjun, who was born in December 2019.
"I always needed someone who can push me," Phogat added. "Before marriage, it was my father and now it's Pawan. He supports me a lot and is the force behind my comeback. Even if I don't do well now, I will continue and not quit the mat."
Geeta Phogat revealed that her husband also wanted to join the ongoing national camp. However, Sahora gave up his ambitions so that Phogat could pursue her comeback while he remained home with their son.
"If I am making a comeback, much credit goes to my husband Pawan. He also wanted to join the national camp but only one of us could do it because someone had to be with our son Arjun, so he sacrificed his chance and let me come to Lucknow for the camp.