ON A day she won against her elder cousin Ritu Phogat during Mumbai Maharathi’s 3-4 loss against MP Yodhas, 24-year-old Maharathi captain and Asian Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat was nominated for the Laureus World Sporting Comeback category in the Laures world Sports awards.
The Haryana wrestler, who had won the gold medal in last year’s Commonwealth Games too apart from winning a silver in Asian Championships, became the first Indian sportsperson to be nominated for the prestigious award and the comeback category included the likes of 14-time major winner golfer Tiger Woods, two-time Winter Olympics bronze medallist Mark McMorris of Canada, three-time Winter Olympics bronze medallist Lindsey Vonn of USA, two-time Winter Olympics champion Yuzuru Manyu of Japan and three-time Winter Paralympic champion Bibian Mentel-Spee of the Netherlands.
“I did not know till today that such an award exists. To be nominated in the sporting comeback category reflects the struggle I had to go through after my injury in Rio Olympics and I feel privileged to win medals for the country. To be nominated along with someone like Tiger Woods and other Olympic champions and medallists feels special for me and I hope I can win the award. Even if I fail to win the award, I am sure it will inspire a lot of youngsters in the country,” said Vinesh, who had won the gold medal in women’s 50 Kg category.
While 2016 Rio Olympics saw Phogat bowing out in the quarter-finals after a knee injury, the Balali-based wrestler from the famous Phogat family made a strong comeback to win the silver medal in last year’s Asian Wrestling Championships in Kyrgyzstan before winning the gold medal in Commonwealth Games in Australia. The wrestler had lost to China’s San yanan in the quarter-final in Rio Olympics and avenged her defeat with a 8-2 win over the Chinese in Asian Games.
Thursday also saw her fighting against elder cousin and 2017 World U-23 Championships silver medallist Ritu Phogat 15-0 in women’s 53-kg bout. “When I am on the wrestling mat, I only see and try to win against my opponent. I and Ritu have competed against each other several times since our categories are almost similar. And both of us know each other’s game as we observe and spend a lot of time together in training, too. I also take positives from fighting against her and it’s the same with her also,” shared Vinesh.
Vinesh’s win in the second bout of the day meant that Maharathi restored parity in the match after Rio Olympics bronze medallist Haji Aliyev had given MP Yodhas a 1-0 lead with a 7-0 win over Harphool. Baitsee Vladislav won the men’s 125-kg bout against Akash Antil of Yodhas before World Wrestling Championship bronze medallist Pooja Dhanda equalised for Yodhas with her win over Betzabeth Angelica.
After Deepak Punia gave Maharathi a 3-2 lead with his 4-0 win over Deepak of Yodhas, birthday girl Elise Monolova scored a 4-0 win over Shilpi Yadav of Maharathi to make it 3-3. Sandeep Tomar won the men’s 57 kg bout against Ibragim Ilyasov to hand Yodhas a 4-3 win. “It is good to secure our second win in as many matches in the tournament. It was a tough match and Sandeep Tomar showed his supremacy in the last bout to help us win. I am happy with the performance and we will take a lot of confidence from this win,” said Yodhas captain Pooja Dhanda.