Countdown to Tokyo Olympics: Know your Olympian – Vinesh Phogat

Read on to learn more about Vinesh Phogat, the reigning Asian Champion and one of the top contenders for a medal at the Tokyo 2020.

Vinesh Phogat
Vinesh Phogat
NameVinesh Phogat
Date of Birth25 August 1994
Birth PlaceBhiwani, Haryana
Sport/Event(s)Wrestling (53kg Freestyle)
World Ranking1
Major achievementsAsian Championship Gold (2021), Silver (2015, 2017, 2018), Bronze (2013, 2016, 2019, 2020)
Asian Games Gold (2018) and Silver (2014)
Commonwealth Games Gold (2014, 2018)
2019 World Championship Bronze medal

Born in the family of celebrated wrestlers Geeta and Babita Phogat, Vinesh Phogat took up the sport at a very tender age. Being the cousin of three Commonwealth Games medalist, Vinesh was surrounded by like minded people with her uncle and father taking on age old traditions to help the cousins continue their pursuit of international glory. And Vinesh didn’t disappoint as she continues to bring laurels to the country at the highest level.

The 27 year old first broke onto the international scene as she clinched the bronze medal at the 2013 Asian Championships which took place in New Delhi. She then went on to win the silver medal at the Commonwealth Championship later that year before bagging the gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in the 48kg category.

Vinesh hasn’t looked back ever since as she went on to brave numerous odds to clinch 10 more medals which included three gold. For her great service to the nation on the mat, Vinesh was bestowed with the Arjuna award in 2016 before the government of India presented her the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, the nation’s highest honor in the field of sports.

Vinesh Phogat seals second Olympic berth on the trot

Vinesh Phogat, a top Medal Prospects for India at Tokyo Olympics - Vinesh Phogat
Vinesh Phogat

Vinesh Phogat was the first Indian wrestler to punch the ticket to Tokyo Olympics. She toppled world number one Sarah Ann Hildebrandt 8-2 in the second repechage round to book her second Olympic berth on the trot. Despite showing great skill, Vinesh had to settle for bronze in the World Championships, her first medal in the tournament.

The Haryana wrestler has a great opportunity to make up for her Rio Olympics disappointment. Vinesh had to pull out of the quarterfinals of the 2016 summer games owing to a career-endangering knee injury. Ever since qualifying for the summer games, Vinesh has been in tremendous form securing a podium finish in all the five tournaments she has faced post COVID-19.

Also Read | Know your Olympian – Neeraj Chopra

“I’m smoother and cleaner in technique,” reckons Vinesh Phogat

Vinesh Phogat
Vinesh Phogat

Vinesh Phogat has been training in Hungary and Poland for a year now as the summer games approach. Ever since moving up to the 53kg category, she has been training with Belgian coach Woller Akos. Vinesh reflects on the transformation she has undergone in terms of her technique under the Belgian’s guidance.

Earlier I would consider it a sign of weakness to study games of opponents. I would attack relentlessly during matches, even if I was losing. After I began working with my coach, I have begun using my hands better and I’m not in a hurry now,” Vinesh had said during an interaction organised by the Sports Authority of India.

Earlier I was a front-on wrestler but now I do a lot of movement and I’m smoother and cleaner in technique. I time my attacks well now. There is a strategy in place for every single rival. We study games of all my opponents on Saturdays and pre bout, not just the big names. I never used to do any of these things earlier. I now realise it makes a big difference.

While Vinesh won the gold medal at the Asian Championships, the ace grappler feels that it shouldn’t be used to gauge her preparedness for the Tokyo Olympics. “I did not go there aiming to win an Asian gold medal. First we heard that Korea pulled out, then China followed, after we reached, news came in that Japan too won’t be competing. I was almost like, ‘what’s the point anymore?’ Recovery was an issue after weight loss at the competition. I need to work on chain wrestling more.

If Vinesh can show the kind of consistency that has stood in good stead since the last couple of years and does not get bogged down by nerves, she has a good chance of making it to the semifinals at the very least. Fans of course would be hoping to see her sport that infectious grin on top of the podium.

Also Read | Know your Olympian – Bajrang Punia