For 24-year old Pooja Dhanda, wrestling was not her first love. Pooja started her career as a judoka but joined wrestling in 2009, and since then, there has been no looking back for her. Recently, she defeated the reigning World and Olympic Champion Helen Maroulis in the Pro Wrestling League (PWL), and she is now looking forward to more such victories in the tournament.
Hailing from a small village called Gudana in Hisar district of Haryana, the 24-year-old has had a topsy-turvy ride in life. On the advice of wrestling coach and Asian Championship winner Kripa Shankar Bishnoi, she joined wrestling. Bishnoi had told Pooja that her body structure and interest was more suited to wrestling than judo. Before 2009, Pooja had already bagged three international medals in judo, including a silver medal at the 2010 Youth Olympics.
However, a knee injury brought in some of the lowest moments of her life and forced her into a rehabilitation phase for almost two years. Not many people know that Pooja was offered Babita's role in the Bollywood blockbuster Dangal but she preferred her wrestling career to acting and chose to devote that time to regain physical fitness. Pooja said,
I had given nine years of my life to wrestling and did not want to leave it in midway without fulfilling my dreams.
She has already defeated Geeta Phogat in real life during the trials for selecting the Indian squad for this year's Commonwealth Games. Pooja is now looking forward to her match against Sangeeta Phogat and Odunayo in the PWL.
With inputs from IANS
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- Commonwealth Games
- Pro Wrestling League
- Shankar Bishnoi
- Helen Maroulis
- Pooja Dhanda