Tragedy struck the Phogat family when Ritika Phogat, cousin of wrestlers Geeta and Babita Phogat, reportedly committed suicide after losing a wrestling match by the narrowest of margins.
Ritika (17) followed her cousins’ footsteps and was a state-level wrestler. Reportedly, Ritika was taking part in the sub-junior, junior women, and men wrestling competition at Lohagarh Stadium in Bharatpur held from March 12 and the final scheduled on March 14.
Ritika made her way to the finals but lost by a single point which the wrestler reportedly couldn’t ‘bear’, prompting her to take the extreme step. Some reports suggest that Mahavir Singh Phogat was present at Ritika's match.
Many took to social media to pay their respects to Ritika. Former Army General and Union Minister VK Singh put a tweet condoling her death and pointed out athletes are facing pressure that wasn't there earlier.
Singh does make a valid point. Athletes these days are facing more pressure to perform compared to the past. The pressure takes a mental and physical toll on these athletes, driving some towards suicide. The pressure of a final’s match is multiplied compared to a regular match. Losing a final can take a psychological toll on athletes. Social media also plays a role in increasing mental health problems for athletes.
With easy access to social media, fans and critics criticise and troll athletes online, adding to the mental pressure. While some athletes “ignore the noise” and move forward, some find it difficult to tackle. Teams, sports bodies and sports ministries must employ sports psychologists to help athletes tackle mental health issues.