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Wrestling Nationals: Vinesh Phogat set to return to mat after 16 months

Vinesh Phogat will be playing in the 55kg category at Senior Wrestling Nationals after returning from knee surgery.

Wrestling Nationals: Vinesh Phogat set to return to mat after 16 months

Vinesh Phogat sparring a day before Senior Wrestling Nationals In Jaipur. (PritishRaj/TheBridge)


Pritish Raj

Updated: 4 Feb 2024 6:48 AM GMT

Jaipur: The second day of Senior National Wrestling Championships turned more busy when World Championships medallist Vinesh Phogat showed up on Saturday at Railway Stadium in Jaipur.

The 29-year-old wrestler will return to the mat in the women’s freestyle category at the senior nationals after a gap of 16 months.

But the seasoned wrestler will compete in the 55kg category, a non-Olympic category, instead of her preferred 53kg division.

“I have been out of match practice for more than a year. 55kg suited my requirement to make a comeback on the mat as I am coming back after surgery,” Vinesh told The Bridge on the sidelines of the senior nationals.

“Due to lack of practice and my knee surgery, I didn’t want to cut much weight. I will play in 53kg at the international level,” asserted the Asian Games gold medallist.

Vinesh along with Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia sat on a two-month-long protest against former WFI president Brij Bhushan Saharan Singh last year.

She was slated to make a comeback during the Asian Games and defend the gold medal but a knee injury ruled her out of the Games as she had to go through surgery and subsequent rehabilitation.

“This is my first competition after my knee surgery, and I am a little nervous as I am returning to the mat after a long time. Last year was very hectic but I think I am happy to finally make a comeback on the mat,” said Vinesh.

“It has been six months since my surgery and I underwent rehabilitation to ensure that I return to the mat,” she added.

With the decision to play in the 55kg category, Vinesh’s main aim will be to get back into rhythm and gain enough match practice.

Vinesh started her practice last year in December and will be representing the Railways at the senior nationals on Sunday.

It will be tough for the Olympian to make a comeback after being away from the mat for more than 16 months.

One of the prominent faces of the protest against Brij Bhushan, Vinesh, however, insisted that she must strike a balance between the protest and her wrestling.

“As an elite athlete, I think it is our duty to balance both - the battle on the mat and the battle off the mat” Vinesh signed off.

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