Indian wrestling fans woke up to a rude shock on Thursday as the news of Ritika Phogat’s alleged suicide emerged early morning. Ritika, who is the cousin sister of Geeta and Babita Phogat, took her own life after she allegedly lost a wrestling tournament final in Bharatpur on Wednesday. She was 17.
Part of the famous Phogat family, Ritika was playing the state-level sub-junior, junior women, and men wrestling tournament. Ritika lost the final, which was played on March 14, by 1 point and hung herself to death after not being able to bear the disappointment of the loss.
Ritika had trained under Dronacharya Awardee Mahavir Singh Phogat, who was also reportedly present at the tournament. A resident of Jaitpur village in Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu, Ritika had been learning and practicing wrestling for over five years at the Mahavir Phogat Sports Academy in Haryana.
Haryana’s Charkhi Dadri District Superintendent of Police Ram Singh Bishnoi released a statement saying investigation into Ritika’s death has started.
“Ritika, wrestler and cousin of Babita Phogat, died allegedly by suicide on March 17. The reason behind it might have been her defeat at a recent wrestling tournament in Rajasthan. Investigation underway,” Ram Singh Bishnoi said.
Vijay Kumar Singh, Minister of State for Road Transport & Highways, was one of the first to confirm the news of Ritika’s suicide on social media.
“Terrible news that we lost #RitikaPhogat who had a brilliant career ahead. The world has changed from where it was some decades ago. Athletes are facing pressures which were not there earlier. An essential part of their training should be to deal with these pressures,” Singh tweeted.
Mahavir Phogat was an amateur wrestler himself while his eldest daughter, Geeta, is a freestyle wrestler who won India’s first ever gold medal in wrestling at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. She is also the first-ever Indian woman wrestler to have qualified for the Olympics (2012 London Games).
Babita won a silver medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, bronze at the 2012 World Wrestling Championships, and followed it up with a gold medal in 2014 Commonwealth Games.
The Phogat sisters and their father Mahavir shot to fame after Aamir Khan’s 2016 film Dangal, which became the highest grossing Indian film of all time.