As soon as Vinesh Phogat reached the dugout after winning her bout against Ritu Phogat at the Pro Wrestling League in Panchkula, she checked her phone which was buzzing for quite a while. There were messages, notifications and missed calls, more than the usual. It left Vinesh confused and she was worried that there might be an emergency.
“I was thinking something wrong has happened but it was about some award on the news,” Vinesh says. “I have never heard of this award but if I am nominated and as everyone is stating it’s a big award, it’s a great thing and I will be happy to win this.”
On Thursday, Vinesh became the first Indian sportsperson to be nominated for the Laureus World Sports awards in the ‘comeback of the year’. She will be competing for the award with golfer Tiger Woods, winter Olympic athletes; Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu, Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris, US ski racing legend Lindsay Vonn and Dutch Paralympic champion Bibian Mentel-Spee.
“Tiger Woods is also nominated so I think the competition is tough. I don’t know how it’s going to be. He is a great player so I think my chances go down,” she says with a laugh.
After an unfortunate exit due to a career threatening injury at the Rio Olympics in 2016, Vinesh made a remarkable comeback winning the national title twice and a silver medal at the Asian Championships in 2017 and 2018. Last year, she became the first Indian woman wrestler to win a gold medal at the Asian Games after winning the gold at the Commonwealth Games.
But Vinesh thinks it’s wrestling that keeps her giving the high moments in her life and hopes she can continue.
“It’s good when these things happen. But I don’t wrestle for any awards. If I get one, it’s good. If I don’t, that is also good. My wrestling is more important,” she says.