Home / Sports / Athletics-news /  Vinesh Phogat becomes first Indian woman wrestler to win gold at Asian Games

New Delhi: Vinesh Phogat on Monday became the first Indian woman wrestler to win a gold medal at the Asian Games when she defeated Japan’s Yuki Irie in the 50kg weight category, 6-2. This was India’s second gold in the Games—the first one also came in wrestling through Bajrang Punia on Sunday—that started on Saturday.

Phogat dominated the bout against the Japanese wrestler and easily took a 4-0 lead before conceding a point and focusing on her defence. This is something the 23-year-old wrestler from Haryana, known mostly for her attacking game, doesn’t often do. In the last three seconds, almost certain of the gold, Phogat let go of the defence and scored two more points from a takedown.

It was an important moment for Phogat. She comes from the famous Phogat family of wrestlers in Haryana’s Balali village and is the cousin of Geeta and Babita, the protagonists of the 2016 movie Dangal. Vinesh rose to prominence after winning a gold medal in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and a bronze at the Incheon Asian Games the same year and became one of the best wrestlers in her weight category. Going into the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, she was one of the strongest medal contenders but a freak accident in her quarterfinal match against China’s Sun Yanan ruled her out of the tournament. She was carried out on a stretcher writhing in pain and fighting back tears. Phogat told Mint last year that she “didn’t think I would be able to return to the wrestling mat ever".

But after a long rehabilitation process following a surgery, she returned to the ring in May last year and has gone from strength to strength since. She won a gold at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast in April.

“Injuries are part of an athlete’s career. But I shrugged off everything to deliver some good medals recently," PTI quoted Phogat as saying after the gold medal in Jakarta. “I feel I indeed have become stronger than before."

In fact, she started her campaign against Sun, the wrestler from China against who she had suffered the injury in Rio, dominating the bout and winning 8-2.

“I had targeted gold. I had 3-4 silvers at the Asia level. So I was determined to win a gold today. My body responded well," said Phogat.

Coach Kuldeep Singh sounds elated. In fact, he is inundated with calls and can’t talk to anyone beyond a minute. “We always knew she had the potential and the hunger. It was just a matter of time for Vinesh more than anything else," he said over phone from Jakarta.

“Men have always dominated the sport, so it feels good when girls win a medal for the country," Phogat had told Mint earlier this year, speaking about the gold medal for Navjot Kaur in the Asian Wrestling Championship. “The federation is giving us an equal opportunity. Now it is up to us to work even harder and grab the opportunities and justify their trust in us," she says.

Kaur, at her home in Punjab’s Tarn Taran, can’t be happier. “Vinesh is one of the most hardworking athletes I have seen. It was long due to her," Kaur said over the phone. “If she continues like this and stays away from injuries, I am betting an Olympic medal on her."

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