Two-time Olympian and double World Championship bronze medalist Vinesh Phogat declared on Tuesday, December 26, that she is surrendering her Khel Ratna and Arjuna awards. To make her decision public, the 29-year-old wrote a note to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on social networking platform X.
Wrestler Vinesh Phogat at a press conference following the appointment of Sanjay Singh, a BJP MP associate and former head of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, as the organization’s new president, in New Delhi on Thursday, December 21.
Vinesh Phogat Decision
Wrestler Vinesh Phogat held a news conference following the declaration of Sanjay Singh, a BJP MP associate and former head of the wrestling department. Phogat was announced four days after Tokyo Olympics bronze winner Bajrang Punia returned his Padma Shri.
Bronze medalist Sakshi Malik from the Rio Games announced her retirement on December 21, just hours after Sanjay Singh’s panel, backed by former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, topped the WFI voting.
WFI was suspended by the sports ministry on Sunday, with various violations of the National Sports Code and the federation constitution as well as “blatant disregard for legal and procedural norms” being cited.
“Sakshi Malik has quit wrestling, and Bajrang Punia has returned his Padma Shri. The entire country knows why the Olympic medalists were forced to do this, and the news would have reached you as well. Mr. Prime Minister, I am your country’s daughter, Vinesh Phogat, and I am writing to you to let you know what I have been going through for the past year,” Vinesh Phogat began.
“I remember that in 2016, when Sakshi Malik returned after winning the Olympic medal, the government made her a brand ambassador of the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save the Girl Child, Educate the Girl Child) program. All the female wrestlers were very happy. Now that Sakshi has been forced to quit wrestling, my mind goes back to 2016. Do women athletes exist only to be featured in government ads? We don’t mind being in those ads because they give the impression that your government is seriously working for the betterment of women. I dreamt of winning an Olympic medal for the country, but now that dream is increasingly becoming distant. I wish the upcoming female wrestlers would realize their dreams.
Sakshi Malik has withdrawn from professional wrestling, while Bajrang Punia has given back his Padma Shri. The Olympic medalists were obliged to do this, and the country is aware of it; you would have heard about it as well. I am Vinesh Phogat, the daughter of your country, and I am writing to you, Mr. Prime Minister, to share with you the experiences I have had over the last year,” she said.
“I recall that in 2016, following her return from her Olympic medal win, Sakshi Malik was appointed as a brand ambassador for the government’s Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save the Girl Child, Educate the Girl Child) initiative. The female wrestlers were all overjoyed. Sakshi’s forced retirement from wrestling makes me think of 2016.
Are female athletes just there to appear in government advertisements? Being in those advertisements doesn’t bother us since they convey the idea that your administration is genuinely interested in improving the lives of women. I aimed to represent my country by earning an Olympic medal, but that dream is getting farther and farther away these days. I hope the aspiring female wrestlers achieve their goals.
Vinesh Phogat has strongly shown resistance by returning the Khel Ratna and Arjuna awards against the appointment of WFI’s new president, Sanjay Singh, who is a loyalist of Brij Bhushan.