Two dozen girls and young women from a north Indian village are chasing their dreams of becoming wrestlers. They train at the Altius wrestling school, founded by Raj Rani Sharma and her husband, Sanjay Sihag, in 2009. Despite the modest facilities, the school’s atmosphere fosters a strong sense of sisterhood, honing wrestling skills and life resilience. State government funding covers training costs, while parents contribute around 9,100 rupees ($109) monthly for boarding and academic tuition.
Inspired by the success of Geeta Phogat, the first Indian female wrestler to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2010, the students represent a new generation of aspiring female wrestlers. Their dedication, hard work, and achievements challenge conservative attitudes by showcasing that women can excel as world-class athletes. The wrestling school offers these young women a chance for a brighter future and the empowerment to defy traditional gender roles.
India’s national wrestling federation has faced challenges, with its provisional suspension for not holding timely elections by the global governing body for the sport, United World Wrestling. The sport’s governing body also faced allegations of sexual harassment by several top female wrestlers. The government has promised efforts to improve safeguards for female athletes, recognizing the challenges they face.
The Altius wrestling school is not just producing athletes; it is nurturing women who embody strength, resilience, and empowerment in a conservative society where women’s rights can be hindered by poverty and tradition. The school represents a beacon of hope and a source of inspiration for women with dreams of breaking barriers and achieving their goals in a male-dominated sport.
Repurposed the article originally published in Economic Times