Vinesh wins second gold for India at Asian Games 2018

Two years after she was stretchered out at the Rio Olympics, Vinesh Phogat came back with an Asian Games gold for India.

For someone who had torn all six side ligaments on her knee in that freak accident at Rio, Vinesh Phogat took less than six months to return to action and won an Asian Games gold two years later.   -  PTI

Two years ago, when Vinesh Phogat was stretchered out of the arena writhing in pain and crying inconsolably at the Rio Olympics, it was anybody’s guess if she would ever be able to fight again. The image of wheeling herself to receive the Arjuna award was one of the most poignant moments that year.

On Monday, she was lifted off the mat again – this time in celebration after claiming India’s and wrestling’s second gold medal at the 18th Asian Games here, overpowering Japan’s Yuki Irie 6-2 in the 50kg final to end her losing streak to her opponent in the fourth meeting between the two.

With Rio bronze medallist Sakshi Malik going down tamely in the 62kg bronze medal match and Pooja Dhanda not making it count in the 57kg, Vinesh ensured the women wrestlers would not return empty-handed from the competition.

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Irie was not the only one the 23-year old Vinesh had been on the lookout for, to avenge her pain and struggles in the past two years. Before her twisted knee against Sun Yanan abruptly halted her campaign, Vinesh was among the favourites to win a medal at Rio. The Chinese was the first to be ticked off the list here in the pre-quarters with an 8-2 win.

The next two rounds did not last long and saw her storm into the final on technical superiority. Irie was a different challenge, though. Japan is a powerhouse in women’s wrestling and against Irie, Vinesh knew she had to take her chances.

“I knew I had to win gold, I could not have gone back with a silver yet again. I was tired of being the second best. I had an opportunity today, my body was responding well. Bhagwan ka sath tha, meri mehnat thi, sab sath me aa gaya (There was my hard work and God's grace. Everything came together),” she admitted after the win.

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She was clearly a favourite for a medal here, but Vinesh did not expect to stamp her dominance in this manner. “For me, this is like Olympics. We had the Olympic bronze medallist here and to beat a Japanese is a big thing. It needed a lot of mental and physical composure and I managed to keep that today.”

She did it in style too. Two minutes into the bout and 4-0 up, she had a chance to pin her opponent but could not break her defence. “Against a strong opponent, the match can turn even in 10 seconds. If I get a chance to outplay her with a pin, there could not have been anything better and I put all my power into it but she is too good and escaped,” Vinesh explained.

She did concede two points towards the end, but by then there was little doubt that the gold was coming India’s way. For someone who had torn all six side ligaments on her knee in that freak accident at Rio, she took less than six months to return to action. And it was sweet retribution for all the naysayers. “Someone has said that injuries make an athlete stronger. It took a lot of effort to get out of it back then, both emotionally and physically but I also have learnt a lot from that injury,” she said.