Younger Phogat eyes a mat finish

Vinesh Phogat may not be as popular as Geeta or Babita, but the younger member of the family is already making her presence felt.

Losing 8-4 to the Japanese Sae Nanjo was no mean achievement, as the Japanese, a former World Championship bronze medallist, was winning the Asian gold for the second time.   -  Twitter

Vinesh Phogat is a confident young wrestler, who has won admiration of the sporting fraternity by returning to the mat in such style, with the Asian Championship silver.

She was one of the golden hopes in the Rio Olympics last year, and the nation had its heart broken, when Vinesh writhed in pain with an injured knee during the quarterfinals of the 48 kg class. Eventually, she had to be taken for medical attention on a stretcher as the knee was seriously damage.

“I wanted to win the gold, but am happy and satisfied with the silver. Considering the training and the time that I got after the rehabilitation, this was the best result,” said Vinesh.

If you are a wrestler, your knee is everything. Your movements show. When you return from such an injury, it keeps playing in the mind and the opponents keep an eye on the injured knee.

“I returned only after the doctors and the physiotherapists were convinced that I was ready. So, I knew that I was fine, but it takes a few matches on the mat to clear your mind and feel normal,’’ she said.

Competing in a different weight category was a novel experience for Vinesh. “I compete in 48 kg. I don’t think I have the power required to compete in 55 kg. But there was no time to train and reduce weight. My normal body weight is 54 kg. In 53 kg, there are many good girls. I have always competed in 48 kg. I will return to that weight for the World Championship,’’ revealed Vinesh, about the intricacies of handling the competition in different weight sections.

Vinesh Phogat with her family members during Geeta Phogat's wedding ceremony in Balali, Haryana, in November last year.   -  Shayan Acharya

 

Moreover, she is familiar with the world standard in the 48 kg section. “There are about 10 girls who are equally competent in 48 kg. I think I have the speed to compete well in this weight category. In the higher weight categories, I may not stand a chance to be in the top-10, as I lack the power,” was the candid admission of Vinesh, when she assessed herself against the global standards.

Losing 8-4 to the Japanese Sae Nanjo was no mean achievement, as the Japanese, a former World Championship bronze medallist was winning the Asian gold for the second time.

Vinesh said that she could cope with the Chinese Qi Zhang in the semifinals better, when she won 4-0.

“Maybe, the Chinese was not attacking much. I also decided not to attack but only focus on counter attack. Maybe, against the Japanese, my technique did not work,’’ analysed Vinesh.

“It is all about getting a lot of training, a lot of match exposure and reducing the mistakes. In wrestling, whoever commits less mistakes, wins. My effort will always be reduce my mistakes,’’ said Vinesh.

From the time being worried about the Japanese and Chinese, Vinesh felt that the Indian women wrestlers have been able to make the Chinese and Japanese worry about competing against them.

“The World Championship will be a lot more difficult than the Olympics, as there will be about 45 wrestlers. The competition would be tough. I will train hard and work on my fitness. Hopefully, we will have the same preparatory camp in Madrid, as we had before the Rio Olympics. There are so many countries that come to Spain to prepare,’’ recalled Vinesh.

She was convinced that a medal in the World Championship would give the necessary confidence for the wrestler to go for the Olympic medal.

When not training, Vinesh is happy to spend time on the social media, updating her status and being in touch with her followers. “Massively indebted to Wayne, Spencer, Sandhya and all the wonderful people at JSW Sports for all that they have done for me,’’ she wrote on her Facebook page, when she could return to the mat after the rehab.

“Laced up my wrestling shoes after six tough, wildly emotional and difficult months. These shoes are my identity and the feeling to wear these beauties again is something that I cannot describe’’, she wrote.

Vinesh has a huge fan following. Her Twitter account has 50,000 followers and her Facebook page has 231,536 followers.

“Somewhere, somebody is wishing that i should well. It gives me pleasure to be in touch with the people and keep them informed, possibly removing their doubts,’’ said Vinesh.

She may not be that famous as Geeta Phogat or Babita Kumari, who are recognised throughout the country thanks to the film, ‘Dangal’ starring Amir Khan, but Vinesh is confident that she is on the right track and moving in the right direction.

If anything, the injury and the break from wrestling has stoked her hunger and has strengthened her drive to be at her best, every time Vinesh Phogat walks on to the mat.