Asian Wrestling Championship: Vinesh Phogat on overcoming pain, self-doubt ahead of international comeback

Vinesh Phogat remembers trying to get up. But her lower body just wouldn’t consent. The last few minutes had passed her by in a blur. Earlier that day, she had walked onto the wrestling mat at the Carioca Arena 2 as one of India’s best hopes for a medal at the Rio Olympics.

Just a few hours later, she was pinned to the ground, fighting stabbing pain and unbearable agony after sustaining a serious injury during the 48-kilogram quarter-final encounter against Sun Yunan, when the Chinese grappler landed on her right knee while attempting a takedown.

"Honestly, at that moment, I did not know what happened... I just went blank and was in a lot of pain. I didn’t want to give up after getting that far so I kept trying to get up,"

File image of Vinesh Phogat. AP

File image of Vinesh Phogat. AP

"I wanted to finish what I had started but my legs just didn’t move. I was even ready to go back after a couple of painkillers but that didn’t happen. I could see everything slip out of my control as I was crying and kicking helplessly to get back on the mat," Vinesh told Firstpost.


In the months that followed, while the physical pain started to heal, helplessness and self-doubt began to take root.

“In the beginning, there were moments of helplessness and I really did not know what to do. I was in self-doubt and was unsure if I would ever get onto the mat again. It was difficult to keep myself motivated," Vinesh recounted.

"That is when the team at JSW Sports turned things around. I was given access to the best medical facilities and the best strength and mental conditioning coaches, who helped me build focus and maintain it no matter how tough it got. Some days were tough and painful, but as I get ready to get back onto the mat every day, it all seems worth it. Rehabilitation took me about five months. I was in Bangalore with the JSW team throughout that period, and had two-three sessions, six days a week," Vinesh added.

On Wednesday, as the Asian Wrestling Championships begin in New Delhi, Vinesh will make her big tournament comeback from that debilitating injury. "The Asian Championship is my first major international tournament since the injury. It is very important for me to prove to myself that I have returned a better wrestler, not just physically but mentally as well. The aim is to do my best and bag a medal for the country. The Asian Championship is also my preparatory tournament for the World Championships, which makes it all the more crucial," "I am almost at the same level of fitness as before. It’s been quite a long journey, but with a few tweaks to my techniques and my fitness levels, I am ready to start winning again," Vinesh said.


While Vinesh refuses to divulge too much about the tweaks to her technique – except for saying that her 'leg work has improved' – at the Asian Championships, she will be seen fighting in a higher weight category than her usual  48-kilogram weight-class.

Vinesh Phogat was injured during the 2016 Summer Olympics at Rio de Janeiro. PTI 

Vinesh Phogat was injured during the 2016 Summer Olympics at Rio de Janeiro. PTI

"I am just recovering from an injury. My trainers and physios felt that it would be best that I up my weight category and give my muscles a chance to strengthen further. After an injury like mine, the muscles get weak and by competing in the 55kg category, I will also prevent further injuries due to weak muscles. This is temporary. Like I said, it's just a precaution to ensure my muscles do not get injured further," the 22-year-old added.

Even though her move could put her in the crosshairs of more established names in the 55-kilogram category, Vinesh remains unfazed.

"We do not know the draws yet and I have never been the kind to prepare according to who my competition is. My competition is Vinesh Phogat. As an athlete, I believe it is important to work on yourself, give it your best, and believe in your abilities – you will do well. So over the last few months, I have just worked towards being a better version of myself every day," Vinesh said.


Published Date: May 10, 2017 09:22 am | Updated Date: May 10, 2017 09:22 am


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