Vicky Chahar missed out on a gold medal at the U-23 Asian Championships by a solitary point. Still, he’s looking at the result more as a learning experience than simply a disappointment. The 92kg competition in Bishkek 10 days back was played in a round-robin format. Although Chahar finished with three wins and a loss – the same as eventual gold medallist Rizbek Aitmukhan and silver medalist Rustam Shodiev -- a 5-4 loss to Aitmukhan ended up costing the Indian, who eventually took bronze.

“I was leading the bout 4-3. Then with about 10 seconds left, my opponent made an attack and scored two points. My style of wrestling is one that tires out the opponent, so I was thinking that he was finished when he attacked. But that was my mistake; that I did not think he would be able to make that final attack,” recalls Chahar.

Chahar knows where he went wrong. “If I had a two or three point lead, then that last takedown would not have made a difference. But my mistake was that I was confident with a one point lead. I won’t make that same mistake in the future,” he says.

2022 hasn’t been the breakout year Chahar would have wanted. He began it strongly enough with a bronze medal at the Senior Asian championships – his second at that level – having already won a silver as a 19-year-old in 2019. He’d also won a bronze medal at the 2019 junior world championships. On the back of those results, Chahar, who grew up in a family of wrestlers in the village of Silana in Haryana’s Jhajhar district, was being tipped as the next big heavyweight prospect in Indian wrestling.

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However just before the start of the Commonwealth Games selection trials in May this year, he would suffer a severe bout of viral fever. “I was tested for COVID, but it came back negative. But it was still very bad. I was admitted to the hospital and was only discharged two days before the trials started,” he says. Physically weak and exhausted, Chahar, who was one of the favourites for the Indian team in the men’s 97kg competition, lost in the first round. “It was very frustrating because I had been preparing for the Commonwealth Games for many years. I had lost nearly 10 kilos of body weight. But I had to take part because I didn’t want that four years effort to go to waste. But I did not have the strength to compete at the trials,” Chahar says.

Although his illness prevented him from performing when he needed it most, Chahar’s recovered now. Even while the Commonwealth Games approaches, he’s looking beyond it. “Although I’ve missed the Commonwealth Games, I want to medal at the Asian Games. My ultimate goal is to compete at the Olympics. So I am focussing on that,” he says.

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For that, Chahar says he’s moving away from the 92kg weight category, where he has enjoyed most of his success and moving into the 97kg division, which is an Olympic weight category. “In a way it is a good thing that I’ve missed the Commonwealth Games because I’ve now got more time to increase my weight. It will take me around four months to put on the extra weight,” he says.

When that is done, Chahar says he will look to implement all that he has learned this season. “I already know that my stamina is one of the best in my weight division. But I have to increase my power as well. Once I do that, I can’t relax in any of my bouts. I have to keep pushing till the end,” he says.