The ongoing 2018 Asian Games at Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia has been a roller coaster ride for the Indian contingent. At the start of day three of the Asian Games, India sits at the number eighth spot in the medals tally with 2 golds, 2 silvers and 1 bronze medal to its name. Both the gold medals for India have come from the sports of wrestling, wrestler Bajrang Punia won the first gold medal for India in the 65 kg freestyle category. The second gold for India came from wrestler Vinesh Phogat in the women’s 50 kg category. Vinesh Phogat with this win became the first woman from India to win gold in wrestling. Women’s wrestling was introduced in the Asian Games in 2002 held at Busan. “I had targeted gold. I had 3-4 silvers at the Asian level and I was determined to win a gold today. My body responded well because I had trained well and God was also kind. So everything mixed up well for me today”, said Vinesh Phogat after her win.
Vinesh Phogat comes from a wrestling family, her cousins Geeta Phogat and Babita Kumari both are international wrestlers and Commonwealth Games medallists. Vinesh had also won Golds in the 48 kg and 50 kg category at the Commonwealth games held in 2014 and 2018. In her previous appearance at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games she had to remain content with just a Bronze medal. However, this does not mean that it has always been easy for Vinesh, her career had been marred by injuries. In fact the last time Vinesh competed in an international bout of this prominence, she left the match with tears streaming down her face, on a stretcher, the venue was the quarterfinals of Rio Olympics. She had picked up a grave knee injury against China’s Sun Yanan at the Rio Olympics, the injury which sealed her fate as far as her chances for an Olympic gold was concerned and also put a question mark against her career. After spending more than a year in rehab at the Inspire Institute of Sport in Bellary, she had only recently returned to the mat. Her training for the Asian Games started just five weeks prior, with a shortage of time at disposal Vinesh and her coach Akos chose to focus on improving her technique .
As luck would have it her first match in the Asian Games was scheduled to be against her old time competitor Sun Yanan, China. Beating the Chinese wrestler 8-2, she went on to win by technical superiority against South Korea’ Kim Hyun Joo in quarterfinals. Uzbekistan’s Daulatbike Yakshimuratova fell in the semifinals, for the gold medal she was up against Japan’s Yuki Irie. With a little tactical help over message from her coach, Akos who was thousands of miles away, Vinesh managed to unnerve her Japanese opponent with a subtle tweak. Yuki Irie is one of the trickiest wrestlers in the world of wrestling, beating her is quite the achievement. Of course winning gold at the prestigious Asian Games is an achievement in itself but managing to do it with so little time for preparation is a commendable feat. Hats off, to Vinesh and her commitment to the sport and country.