Name: Vinesh Phogat
Discipline (sport): Freestyle Wrestling
Category: 50 kg
Past CWG performances: Gold medal at 2014 Glasgow Games
Best performance: Gold medal at 2014 Commonwealth Games
The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro was difficult event to follow for fans of Indian sport. As each event passed, the painful wait for a medal continued. There were many athletes who promised to end that wait, one of them was Vinesh Phogat. Having defeated Polish wrestler Iwona Matkowska in the qualifying tournament for Rio 2016 quite comfortably, Vinesh had advanced to the quarter-finals of the main event. But unfortunately, she injured her knee during the bout against Sun Yanan and had to be stretchered off with her dream of an Olympic medal shattered.
Why is Vinesh rated so highly? It could be partly because of her background — she is Geeta Phogat's cousin and like Geeta, she was also coached by Mahavir Singh Phogat. Other than that, her accolades speak for themselves.
Vinesh first shot to limelight in 2013 during the Asian Wrestling Championships, when she bagged the bronze medal by defeating Thailand's Tho-Kaew Sriprapa in the repechage round. In the same year, she had the opportunity win gold in Commonwealth Wrestling Championships but couldn't defeat Nigeria's Odunayo Adekuoroye.
But the gold medal didn't elude her for much longer. Representing India in the women's freestyle 48 kg category at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Vinesh breezed past Rosemary Nweke and Jasmine Mian in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively before beating local wrestler Yana Rattigan 3-1 in the final to clinch gold.
Since then she has won at least one medal in ever year. Bronze at the Asian Games in 2014 Incheon; Silver at the 2015 Doha Asian Championships followed by a bronze in Bangkok in the same competition in 2016 and then again a silver in New Delhi in 2017. Now as she heads to Gold Coast in Australia for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Vinesh would like to continue the trend.
From being a medal prospect in Rio Olympics 2016 to seeing her dream snatched away from her by a bad injury, Vinesh has come a long way. It indicates how strong she is mentally. Having started wrestling at a young age of seven, Vinesh had been out of the sport for the first time after the injury in Rio. Initially, she feared surgery because making a comeback after that was 'extremely difficult'. But eventually, she underwent it and returned to wrestling in six months.
"The injury taught me a lot, it has certainly made me a lot stronger mentally. You think about winning and losing, no one really thinks of getting injured. But the experience has certainly prepared me to face anything in life," Vinesh had told News18 in January 2018.
Even though Vinesh found herself in a midst of a controversy in late 2017, when the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) suspended her — before revoking it a few days later — for not informing the federation about an injury, she will travel to Australia with a good frame of mind and will look to bury the ghosts of Rio with another gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.
Click here to read profiles of other Indian athletes involved in the Commonwealth Games 2018
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Updated Date: Mar 17, 2018 12:52:35 IST