JAKARTA: Vinesh Phogat, from the Haryanvi stable of wrestling sisters of ‘Dangal’ fame, came up with a near-perfect game to clinch a historic gold, the first for an Indian woman in wrestling in Asian Games. She outclassed Yuki Irie of Japan 8-2 in the 50kg category final here on Monday.
Showing impressive skill and composure, Vinesh executed her game plan astutely, prompting double Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar, who was watching from the stands, term the bout a “lopsided contest”.
This was India’s second gold in the Asiad here, with the earlier one also coming in wrestling through Bajrang Punia on Sunday.
It was a win Vinesh will cherish for long. The 23-year-old took her time to assess her opponent before surprising the Japanese with a swift move to collect four points with a leg-grab 90 seconds into the bout. She then went into a shell, giving no chances to her rival to fight back. Though she conceded two points, including one for passivity in the second round, she had enough in the bank to play it safe till the final whistle.
This was her second medal at the Asiad, having won a bronze in Incheon four years ago. Women’s wrestling was introduced at the Games in 2002 in Busan.
Vinesh Phogat in action against Yuki during the final bout. (PTI Photo)
“The Japanese is a good wrestler but I know her game well. I wanted to take an early lead and keep her at bay after that. I am happy that the strategy worked,” she said after the bout. “I had three to four silver medals in Asian events before today. I wanted to win gold this time. Everything fell into place for me and it helped me triumph.”
The gold medal win was a sort of redemption for Vinesh, who had struggled with injuries ever since breaking her leg during the Rio Olympics 2016. In Rio she had to be stretchered off after the injury during the quarterfinal tie against Sun Yanan of China.
On Monday, Vinesh accounted for Yanan in the first round itself to start her eventful journey to the top of the podium. “It was difficult for me to come out of the injuries. It was tough, both physically and mentally. But I emerged from this phase stronger,” she said. “There was pressure on me because I had lost against the Chinese three times. Today I had to prove that I am stronger than her and I am happy that I could do that.”
If the match against the Chinese challenger was a little tricky, the Indian had no problems winning her next two bouts, quite effortlessly, to book a final berth.
It turned out to be a disappointing day for other Indian wrestlers as Pinki in failed to impress 53 kg category, while Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik (62kg), Pooja Dhanda (57kg) and Sumit (125kg) lost the chance to win bronze medals through repechage.