Vinesh Phogat was one of the biggest medal hopes for India at Rio Olympics but her dreams came down crashing when she suffered a career-threatening knee injury in her 48kg freestyle quarter-final bout.
Vinesh had stormed into the quarter-final with a win via technical superiority over Romania’s Alina Vuc but her quarter-final against Sun Yanan of China ended midway. In a heartbreaking episode, Vinesh was stretched off the mat. Sun would go on to win a bronze medal but Vinesh headed home with empty hands and an injured knee.
Vinesh Phogat would later receive her Arjuna Award during the National Sports Awards ceremony while being on a wheelchair.
Cut to 2019, Vinesh Phogat became the first Indian woman wrestler to win a Tokyo Olympics quota place. Vinesh has put behind the Rio Olympic disappointment. She has overcome her knee issues. She got the World Championships medal off her buck list in Nur-Sultan earlier this month.
Vinesh Phogat has once again got an entire nation dreaming. Despite coming with a strong show at the World Championships, Vinesh Phogat is not getting ahead of herself. The 25-year-old wrestling sensation has given wings to her Tokyo Olympics dreams but she is keen on doing the basics right at the biggest stage next year.
Speaking at the launch of ZEE Kushti Dangal in New Delhi, Vinesh Phogat said she does not feel the burden of expectations and that she has figured out how to deal with pressure in the lead up to Tokyo Olympics.
“There is definitely no pressure. Earlier, I didn’t know how to take pressure but now I understand that I can do it and I will work hard for that and I am confident of completing my bouts because I missed a lot of things in the Rio Olympics, even my match didn’t take place [curtailed quarter-final],” Vinesh Phogat said.
“I want to regain the opportunity to win a medal that I lost in Rio no matter what it takes. So whatever the results, I will want to play the full quota of 6 minutes match in the Tokyo Olympics.
“If I lose, I will still move forward but if I win I will definitely move forward. The questions which are stuck in my mind will definitely get cleared,” Vinesh Phogat added.
Vinesh Phogat had changed her weight category from 50kg to 53kg ahead of the start of 2019 season. The World Championship medal in the 53kg category has given her a lot of confidence ahead of Tokyo Olympics.
Vinesh Phogat exuded confidence when asked if she has become familiar with her opponents in the new weight category. There is no bigger testament to her statement than her bronze medal in Nur-Sultan.
Vinesh has been working hard with her Hungarian personal coach, Woller Akos of Hungary. Upper-body strengthening has been one of the key aspects and the results are there to be seen.
Incidentally, it was Sun Yanan, against whom she suffered the injury at Rio Games, who has heaped rich praise on Vinesh Phogat’s improved strength.
“There is nothing negative about weight change but there are definitely many positives as I have won back to back medals in every competition after changing it this year. It will be more helpful as I will get more chances of avoiding injuries.”