Vinesh Phogat has firmly established herself in the pantheon of great Indian wrestlers by achieving another first.
After securing her maiden World championships medal, a bronze, in Nur-Sultan in 2019, Vinesh claimed another bronze medal in 53kg in Belgrade on Wednesday and became the first Indian woman wrestler to win two medals at the elite event.
While Vinesh beat World and Olympic medallist Sofia Mattsson on her way to secure her first Worlds medal, she displayed exemplary grit to thwart a strong challenge from another Swedish, young European champion Jonna Malmgren, in the bronze medal match this time, with Sofia looking on as a coach on the mat side.
Vinesh’s Belgrade show was a story of extraordinary comeback in itself. She lost to Mongolian Khulan Batkhuyag in the first round, but grabbed a second chance. Her vast experience came in handy as she executed her counterattacks to perfection to beat the tough Jonna with an 8-0 verdict.
Vinesh – who had a forgettable outing on her second Olympics appearance in Tokyo – overcame a spell of depression, several health issues and a ban (on disciplinary grounds) to fight back like a true champion and win her third consecutive Commonwealth Games title and second Worlds medal within a year.
Whether she competes in the National Games or not, 28-year-old Vinesh, an Asian Games gold medallist, will take heart from her two big medals this year to launch her preparations for the Asiad next year and the Olympics in 2024.