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Monday, September 20, 2021

World Championship Trials: Far from feeling 100 per cent ready, Vinesh Phogat pulls out after one bout

On her return, it was clear that Vinesh was struggling with strength. Her opponent Anju repeatedly targeted her head. It resulted in the 23-year-old having to constantly work to fend off Anju’s attacks and spending most of the bout trying to defend.

Written by Shashank Nair |
Updated: September 1, 2021 1:56:06 pm
Vinesh PhogatVinesh Phogat competes.(Source: AP)

Vinesh Phogat sat with her head in her hands on the training mat of the Indira Gandhi Stadium. Surrounded by her husband Somvir Rathee and a few friends, she had just completed her first bout of the day against Anju – a less than convincing 10-5 win.

But the familiar, yet unexplained dizziness that she had felt in Tokyo, reared its head today in New Delhi again and the 2019 Worlds bronze medallist decided that her comeback from a medal-less Tokyo Olympics would have to be cut short after a solitary bout.

“I simply came to compete because I felt it would have been too long a gap had I not contested the trials. We wanted to see if the same problems that happened in Tokyo would happen here,” Vinesh said.

The aim of the trials was to see whether issues with cutting weight, that were the bane of her Tokyo disappointment, would continue. In fact, in a bid to understand what exactly the issues were, Vinesh decided to give her World Championship trial in the 55-kg category, instead of the 53-kg weight class that she is known to occupy. The women’s pick for the worlds from the 72-kg weight category Divya Kakran confirmed that the athletes were given a leeway of 2 kilos for their weigh in. Despite the relaxations enjoyed by the wrestlers on trial, Vinesh didn’t feel like she was in great shape.

“We are still talking to doctors trying to figure out why this is happening. Even today, I didn’t feel alright during the bout. I didn’t feel like I was ready. I can’t give any clarity on why this is happening. But it looks like I’m going to have to do some tests with the doctor to find out what the problem is. Until I know the problem, I can’t come up with a solution,” Vinesh said.

Vinesh Phogat suffered a quarter-final defeat in the Tokyo Olympics. (File)

In an article for The Indian Express, Vinesh spoke about how she had suffered a concussion in 2017 and would feel blurry every time her head would be struck. On her return, it was clear that Vinesh was struggling with strength. Her opponent Anju repeatedly targeted her head. It resulted in the 23-year-old having to constantly work to fend off Anju’s attacks and spending most of the bout trying to defend.

Despite not feeling herself, the two-time Olympian’s superior technique helped to bail her out of tough positions on the mat. But it was clear this was not the Vinesh who was looking in ominous form just months before the Olympics.

After the bout was over, Vinesh tried her best to recover, with her team massaging her head while lifting her legs to avoid the onset of cramps. Bottles of water were consumed but a long conversation with her husband and fellow wrestler Somvir followed after which she decided to call it quits.

“An athlete can only feel happy and mentally at peace when they are doing what they are meant to do. I’m training but not 100% right now. I’m slowly trying to begin again. It didn’t feel right when I was competing today. There are things happening in my body that I don’t understand right now. The same problem that happened in Tokyo, happened over here as well,” said the Asian Games gold medallist.

No re-trial for Bajrang

The WFI continued to stick to their stance of not providing Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia with a re-trial later. Punia has been recuperating from injuries that he had suffered from before the Olympics. As of now, he was not in training due to the injuries and could not have taken part in the trials held for the World Championships on Tuesday. Speaking to The Indian Express, Punia said, “Even before the Olympics, the doctors had asked me not to compete. They told me that if I would take part in the Olympics, I could aggravate the injury and stay side-lined for far longer. But I told them that competing was more important for me at the time.”

He then said that he has a grade 2-3 ligament tear in his knee and had been advised six weeks of rest. Despite this the three-time Worlds medallist reiterated his desire to be a part of the Oslo World Championships by appearing for a re-trial.

But the Wrestling Federation of India assistant secretary Vinod Tomar said that this was ‘not a possibility’ as the procedure is that they have to announce the re-trial before the trials so that whosoever wins in their weight category also has prior knowledge of one more bout being scheduled.

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