Will Vinesh Phogat avenge the Rio loss and win a medal at Tokyo Olympics?
Vinesh had to forfeit her quarterfinal bout against the Chinese Sun Yanan owing to a career-threatening knee injury during the Rio Games. Four years later, a medal at Olympics beckons her.
Vinesh Phogat is the only Indian woman to have yet qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. The 26-year-old from the state of Haryana qualified for her second stint at the Olympics during the World Wrestling Championship back in June 2020.
The current World Number 1 in the 53 kg category though had a disappointing run at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games four years back. Entering the Olympics as one of India's medal hopes, Vinesh had to forfeit her quarterfinal bout against the Chinese Sun Yanan owing to a career-threatening knee injury.
Vinesh though returned to the mat just five months after undergoing surgery and proper rehabilitation. Circumstances such as these could break down any athlete, but not Vinesh. She, instead, returned more determined than ever and clinched a silver medal at the Asian Wrestling Championship.
What followed was stuff made of dreams as she clinched back to back gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games in the year 2018. She backed it up with her only World Championship medal – a bronze at the Wrestling World Championship held at Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan in 2019. With the Tokyo dream all but over for 2016 Rio bronze medallist Sakshi Malik, Vinesh will enter the tournament as India's best bet in women's wrestling.
The 26-year-old will face some stiff competition from the likes of Pak Yong Mi of North Korea, the reigning world champion of 2019 and Asian Games champion of 2018, former World Champion Japanese Mayu Mukaida, two time World Championships bronze medallist Pang Qianyu of China, former World Championship silver medallist Roksana Zasina of Poland, Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sofia Mattsson of Sweden, two times World Champion from Belarus Vanesa Kaladzinskaya and others.
To avenge the 2016 disappointment would not be easy. For Vinesh, it would be more mental strength that she would have to display than physical strength. The 2016 Rio incident would surely be hovering in her mind, and that would surely be her biggest hindrance in clinching a medal at Tokyo.