Another Phogat makes India proud

Vinesh Phogat celebrates after winning gold medal in 50kg category. REUTERS

Two years after her career was thrown into jeopardy by an injury, Vinesh Phogat sported the sunniest of smiles one could find at the Asian Games wrestling arena on Monday.

Vinesh could afford to smile, for, in one of the most stirring runs by an Indian on a wrestling mat, she had just nailed the gold medal in the 50kg class, becoming the first woman from her country to achieve the feat.

Right from first round to the final buzzer, there was only one winner in this category. Vinesh simply demolished her rivals one by one, before plucking out Japan’s Yukie Irie 6-2 in the final in a slow slugfest.

It was a terrific culmination of a comeback for Vinesh from the knee injury that dashed her Olympic dreams in the quarterfinal against Sun Yanan of China at Rio 2016. And making it sweeter was the fact that Yanan was the one she packed off here in the very first round. 

“My only target was to win the gold. I have silver 3-4 times before this in Asia…there was no way I would settle for it again,” said Vinesh. “This was a very big opportunity for me, my body was reacting well to the situations today. Everything worked well so that’s why I could win the gold.”

After defeating Yanan 8-2 first up, Vinesh outclassed Kim Hyunjoo, winning by technical superiority after racing to a 11-0 lead. But the most authoritative of her victories arrived in the semifinal against Dauletbike Yakshimuratova of Uzbekistan.

It was over in just 75 seconds as Vinesh took her rival down and twisted her around three times to race from 4-0 to 10-0. 

The final was a cat and mouse game with both the wrestlers circumspect to start off with. Vinesh grabbed one opening that she was presented with, taking down Irie and twisting her around for four points. She took that lead to the second period but was docked a couple of points for passivity.

That didn’t deter her one bit and as the second ticked down, she finished with a flourish, notching two more points to trigger celebrations in the Indian camp.

 "I didn’t think it would be so easy,” said Vinesh. “This was like the Olympics for me, there were Olympic medallists and a wrestler from Japan, who are a powerhouse,” she added and admitted that her plan was to nail the opponents quickly.

“Yes, that was the idea. When you are playing strong opponents, there is a chance they will make a comeback even with 10 seconds remaining. So you want to wrap up the match as quickly as possible.”

India’s other wrestlers in fray finished without a medal. Olympic bronze medalist Sakshi Malik (62kg) lost in the semifinal to Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan and then was beaten by Rim Jong Sim of North Korea in the bronze medal bout.

Pooja Dhanda (57kg) also lost her bronze medal match to Katsuki Sakagami of Japan. She had also reached the semifinal before losing to Jyong Myong Suk of North Korea. In the 53kg class, Pinki suffered a first round defeat to Sumiya Erdenechimeg of Mongolia. India’s last competitor in the men’s freestyle, Sumit (125 kg), also lost the bronze medal bout to Davit Modzmanashvili of Uzbekistan. 

 

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Another Phogat makes India proud

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