From gloom to glory — the Vinesh Phogat story

Since claiming her maiden gold medal in Gonda in 2012 as an 18-year-old rookie sporting a crew-cut hairstyle, Vinesh Phogat has come a long way.

Vinesh Phogat exults after winning the gold medal at the Asian Games on Monday.   -  PTI

Since claiming her maiden gold medal in Gonda in 2012 as an 18-year-old rookie sporting a crew-cut hairstyle, Vinesh Phogat has come a long way.

Vinesh, who got the nation’s sympathy due to her tragic exit from the Rio Olympics mat owing to a knee injury, has battled past many a demon to become the first Indian woman to win a wrestling gold medal (in 50kg) in the Asian Games and carve a niche for herself in Indian sporting history.

The Rio injury was not just career threatening, but also highly demoralising. However, the gritty wrestler fought her way back to take Asian championships silver medal in less than a year.

As she was fighting to get back to top of her fitness, Vinesh’s progress was halted by another injury which she picked up during a practice session.

Vinesh came back stronger to not only bag the National title in Indore but also step up her game. Her second gold medal in the Commonwealth Games and a silver in the Asian championship earlier this year set up the 23-year-old to aim for the gold in the Asian Games.

Vinesh’s feat at the Jakarta Games has different aspects to it.

It has scripted a piece of history in her favour. It has enabled her to break free from being tagged as a cousin of the famous Phogat sisters and establish her own identity. And it has projected her as a medal prospect for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“Vinesh’s change in approach helped her in the Asian Games. Earlier, she used to defend initially before switching to attack. In that process, she used to give away a number of points and come under pressure.

Now, she attacks early, grabs some points and puts her opponent under pressure. Her victory will instill a lot of confidence in her,” said international wrestler-turned-television commentator Kripa Shankar Patel.

Vinesh looks set to take heart from her Asian Games gold medal to lift her game to different heights.