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The tale of the other Phogat sister

The tale of the other Phogat sister

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Published: 21 Aug 2018 6:23 AM GMT

Two years ago, Vinesh Phogat’s march to a podium finish in the Rio Olympics was cruelly halted as she lay spread-eagled on the mat after suffering from a horrible knee injury during her quarterfinal bout against China’s Sun Yanan in the women’s freestyle 48kg category. The world saw heart-rending visuals of an inconsolable Vinesh in tears as she was stretchered out of the arena that day, her journey to an Olympics medal being frozen in the tracks by a career-threatening injury.

In what is perhaps one of the most glorious comebacks ever from an injury of that magnitude, Vinesh scripted history at the Asian Games in Jakarta on Monday, becoming the first Indian woman to win a wrestling gold at the event.

Much was written about how overcoming the mental barrier would be the biggest hurdle for Vinesh in the Asiad this year. And in a cruel twist of fate, her first bout in the women’s 50kg freestyle wrestling category was against Sun Yanan. If this was cricket, broadcasters would have, quite predictably, played up the quest for ‘revenge’, scripting advertisements and countless tweets to get badla lenge’ trending everywhere. But in a country where acts of heroism in athletics often slip under the media’s myopic gaze, Vinesh won duel after duel — with quiet command and absolute dominance — en route to her historic gold. The world sat up and took notice, but only after history was made.

“I had targeted gold [this time]. I had 3-4 silvers at the Asia level. So, I was determined to win a gold today. My body responded well. I had trained well and God was also kind to me. Everything fell in place for me today,” Vinesh told TOI after the win.

“Injuries are a part of an athlete’s career. It is difficult both emotionally and physically. But I shrugged off everything…Someone has said an athlete becomes strong after injury and I feel I have indeed become stronger than before,” she added.

The 23-year-old from Haryana was so dominant in her bout against Yanan that not for once did she allow the latter to attack her legs. Banking on a ride of confidence, Vinesh just dropped four points in total and spent just 17 minutes on the mat at the Asian Games this year. Only two of her wins went the distance into the sixth minute.

Vinesh next defeated two-time Olympian Kim Hyung-joo 11-0 and Uzebekistan’s Dauletbike Yakshimuratova 10-0, needing just over a minute for her victory in both the duels. And history was in the reckoning when she faced Japan’s Yukie Erie in the final, not just because no Indian woman had won a wrestling gold at the Asiads but also no Indian woman had ever beaten a Japanese at wrestling in the Asian Games.

In the end, Erie was left gasping on the floor, her shoulders on the mat as she had no answer for Vinesh’s elusive darts and slick movement. Draped in tricolor and with tears in her eyes, Vinesh soaked in the adulation with pride.

In a country where actors in sports biopics are sometimes confused with the roles of athletes they are playing — Farhan Akhtar being depicted as Milkha Singh in a school textbook has been making news recently — it is not surprising that the film Dangal brought unparalleled fame to the Phogat sisters.

 The four Phogat sisters — Geeta, Babita, Ritu and Sangeeta — are not featuring in the Asian Games this year, having been axed on grounds of serious indiscipline by the Wrestling Federation of India. Dangal had relegated to the margins their cousin Vinesh, who at this time of crisis has kept the family flag flying high. As many have pointed out on Twitter, the film perhaps needs a sequel now.

Also read: Asian Games 2018: Vinesh Phogat becomes first Indian woman to win GOLD in Asiad wrestling

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