She loves her “kheer-churma” as much as her “desi uth baith” and keeps her focus on performing to the best of her abilities rather than winning. ‘The Indian Tigress’, Ritu Phogat. The Telegraph chatted with the MMA star ahead of the One Championship on Star Sports Network.
What is the mindset of a champion before a major tournament?
Everybody trains hard, but your mindset going into a fight is most important. A lot of times, despite working hard, people can’t give their best. So, it is important to be strong mentally. That is what takes you closer to victory.
What do you do for mental strength?
I meditate and keep my focus and I don’t really think about winning or losing. My aim is always to give my best.
Are you mentally strong in general?
Bilkul main mentally strong hoon aur lockdown mein aur bhi zyada strong ho gayee hoon. From our childhood, papa (Mahavir Singh Phogat, wrestler and Dronacharya awardee) has taught us to showcase the hard work. In a contest, one will lose. We have been asked not to fear anything and that is how we have been prepared mentally. That gives us positive vibes.
How have you handled pressure and failures over the years?
When you lose, there are all kinds of comments: ‘Abhi yeh kuch nahin kar sakti’, ‘abhi iski age ho gayee’.... Even I have been subjected to them, but I have never let it get to me and I have wanted to let my hard work speak. I have always been positive.
I have played many tournaments and I have both won and lost. As an athlete, you have to take it in your stride. I don’t get depressed from my losses and try to take lessons on how I can improve.
When you take upon yourself the pressure to win, you often cannot give your best. Also, if you fear loss... both these mindsets yield negative results. Just work hard and at the end of the match, you shouldn’t regret that had you done this, you would have won.
What do you do for fitness?
For an athlete, physical fitness is of utmost importance. I keep a tab on my diet too.
What from the earlier years of training with your father is still a part of your routine?
Bilkul.... Papa has taught us the desi uth baith and I continue with that. That gives me added power. My foundation has helped me a lot.
Are you a foodie? Can you cook?
I like simple food. I love cooking. I can make Indian food. If I am throwing a feast, I will have woh jo pahelwan khaate hai, dal-roti-kheer-churma.
Tell us a bit about the interpersonal relationship between the Phogat sisters...
I share a great bonding with my sisters. More than my parents, I have been closer to my sisters and have spent more time with them. I have been closest to Geeta and I am scared of her the most! Sab se zyada nautanki Sangita hai... she is hasmukh and I can talk to her about anything. Babita talks less.
What kind of a relationship do you share with your father now? Are you still scared of him?
Abhi papa kaafi change ho gaaye hai. I noticed in the lockdown that he had become emotional. He would call regularly.
What are festive times like for you?
I am in Singapore now and immersed in the competition. If there are no competitions, I’ll go home... puja-path bhi karti hoon.
Who is your favourite athlete?
Khabib (Abdulmanapovich Nurmagomedov, a former professional mixed martial artist from Russia). Unki larne ki style, his background and his style (fight) matches mine. His dad was his coach. He is my favourite.