How Vinesh Phogat beat ‘nature’ and her own ‘demons’ to win a historic World Championships medal | More sports News

Every attempt failed. The closest this author has come to getting Vinesh Phogat on the other side of a phone call was when she reached Belgrade airport to catch her flight home. “Woh shopping karne gayi hai (she went shopping),” the coach said Jitender Yadav. Phone didn’t connect an hour later, Whatsapp messages showed only one tick. The coach had boarded the plane, as had the women struggle team, including Vinesh, wearing her second medal at the World Championships – the only Indian wrestler to do so.
Back home, after a 24-hour rest, the pattern did not change. Repeated attempts to reach Vinesh failed.
“She’s like that, doesn’t talk to 99% of the media,” coach Yadav said. Half Nelson. Remove. Game over.
Last week, after shockingly losing their opener in Belgrade to Mongolian Khulan Batkhuyag, Vinesh has his fingers crossed. In wrestling, if an opponent who beat you in the qualifying rounds makes it to the finals, you become active again for the repechage rounds in search of a bronze medal.
Vinesh had similar hopes. Batkhuyag was struggling well and reached the final. Vinesh was alive again.

“We had no doubt that the Mongol would reach the final,” Vinesh’s coach Yadav said, speaking to
Vinesh was the favorite for the 53kg gold after Japan’s Akari Fujinami withdrew. But the challenges for women in sport go beyond the realm of competition and fear of injury.
In the midst of her pre-tournament weight loss routine en route to Belgrade, Vinesh’s menstrual cycle set in.
While it’s something female athletes around the world deal with on a regular basis, dealing with menstrual cramps when preparing for a big tournament is never easy.
For Vinesh, a second medal at the World Championships meant a lot. After a decade on the senior circuit, ahead of his opener in Belgrade, Vinesh had expressed his dissatisfaction with just one World Championship medal in 10 years.


(ANI Photo)
But coach Yadav noticed something in training, which didn’t bode well.
“During the warm-up, if a player is fit and fully recovered, his face turns red, it glows because of the fast blood circulation. But there was nothing like that on Vinesh’s face during the warm-ups before the start of the tournament. His face was yellow. It only happens when you haven’t fully recovered,” Yadav said.
It was, however, planned.
Besides a natural phenomenon phase, Vinesh was also trying to lose weight. She was 3 kg overweight about 48 hours before the weigh-in. To get rid of those extra pounds, she stayed mostly on an empty stomach. Finally, she weighed less than 53 kg.
But the periodic cycle combined with a weight loss regimen took its toll on Vinesh’s body, which may not have been fully ready for his opener.
Coach Yadav said it is not taboo for female athletes to reveal the start of their menstrual cycle to their male coaches as they need to work closely together. They openly discuss their problems.
“It’s not hidden because we have to work together. It’s natural. Sab players khul ke bolte hain (players talk about it openly),” Yadav added. “Vinesh’s (Somvir Rathee) husband had arrived in Belgrade a day before we arrived and helped her lose weight.”


(Photo: United World Wrestling)
Vinesh’s battles with injuries and his struggles to maintain his mental well-being began after his nasty injury at the Rio Olympics and a lengthy post-surgery recovery period.
But she’s made valiant comebacks whenever an unfortunate injury has knocked her down, like the concussion she suffered in 2017 or elbow surgery immediately after the Tokyo Olympics last year. The gold medal comeback at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and that historic bronze medal at the World Championships are testament to Vinesh’s determination.
But the Olympics remain an “undefeated monster” for Vinesh, especially after another Games without a medal in Tokyo, where she was ousted in the quarter-finals, and it caused an emotional outburst. She was even suspended by the Wrestling Federation of India, but was later released with a warning.
Since Vinesh was a gold medal favourite, her first-round loss in Belgrade at the World Championships saw her a target for many. Vinesh responded to his criticisms following his return from the World Championships in Belgrade, which remains a largely unsatisfying outing for Indian wrestlers despite Vinesh and Bajrang Punia winning bronze medals.
“…for them (the fans) it’s just a day in their life after watching a game. What they don’t realize is that these things can seriously slow down and affect the condition of athletes , their mood, especially in difficult times,” Vinesh tweeted after landing in India from Belgrade.

Coach Yadav says his mental battles really started after the painful exit from the Rio Olympics.
“Physically the jaldi player adapts to ho jata hai, but psychologically I have lagta hai time left (physical recovery may be faster, but it takes time to recover when you are psychologically depressed),” said Yadav.
“After Tokyo, in Istanbul (Yasar Dogu ranking series), her performance was down. She was not in good shape physically and was coming back from an injury. But it was important to play, because we had to plan for the future (calendar ) Consequently.
“The most important thing here (in Belgrade) was that this (medal) was important for his comeback. A CWG medal may be prestigious in the media but it’s not big considering the level of wrestling. A medal in a great competition does a lot of good for a player’s mind and psychology,” added Yadav.
The medal, a second at the World Championships for three-time CWG gold medalist Vinesh, was finally won.
After two repechage wins, over Zhuldyz Eshimova of Kazakhstan by fall and Leyla Gurbanova of Azerbaijan who suffered an injury, Vinesh found herself in the bronze medal match against fourth seed Jonna Malmgren of Sweden.
She carried her injured knee into the match against Malmgren and battled her opponent as well as her mental demons to fight like a cunning fox, dodging the Swede’s attacks and surprising her with counters to score takedowns. Sudden outbursts from Vinesh, just when Malmgren least expected those outbursts from the Indian, caught the Swede napping and conceding takedowns.
Vinesh won 8-0.

A comeback medal, with a touch of luck after losing his first fight, was a monumental feat for Vinesh, who was not one hundred percent throughout the tournament. His bronze medal is to be celebrated. Not just because of the feat itself, but because of everything she had to overcome to stand on the World Championships podium for the second time.
Add to all that seeing neurologists to recover from the concussion she suffered in 2017, followed by battles with surgeries and an emotional meltdown, it’s been a hellish journey for Vinesh, and she’s still decorated. like no other female wrestler in the country.
“It’s natural, when you chase something for years, like an Olympic medal, and all the focus is on it, when it doesn’t happen because of a little mistake, then it hurts,” Yadav told
And then he reiterated.
“Physically the jaldi player adapts to ho jata hai, but psychologically I have lagta hai time left.”

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