Nursultan: It’s surprising that Vinesh Phogat has never won a World Championships medal. In her three World Championships before the ongoing one in Nursultan, her best finish is tenth.
But on Wednesday, she will have a chance to set that record straight. After winning her repechage bout against Sarah Hilderbrandt of USA in 53 kg category, Phogat booked her spot in the bronze medal bout. More importantly, she also earned India a quota spot for the Tokyo Olympics in the weight category.
Phogat is the first woman wrestler from India to qualify for Tokyo 2020 but she knows that a bronze medal will be a big achievement.
“I am so happy to qualify,” Phogat said. “I have never won a World Championships medal and I have a chance now so I will try.”
Phogat wrestles Maria Prevolaraki of Greece for a bronze medal at the Barys Arena in the capital city of Kazakhstan. Given her performance against Hilderbrandt, who is the world number one wrestler in the category, Phogat’s chance to win a medal go up a notch.
Even Hilderbrandt was surprised. The world silver medallist failed to understand Phogat’s style and could not complete her moves.
“I was trying to reach her legs which I did but I wasn’t able to finish,” Hilderbrandt said. “I have never been in those kinds of situations. Vinesh improvises a lot and it was difficult getting through.”
The defence, which Hilderbrandt failed to break, was a tactical move by Phogat’s coach Woller Akos. For the bout against Hilderbrandt, Akos gave his ward a few instructions.
“We needed her to motion left which she did,” Akos said. “Hilderbrandt has long arms so to make it difficult for her to reach Phogat’s legs we need Phogat to not fall for a fake, keep her away and defend.”
That worked perfectly. Phogat took a 5-0 lead in the first period and saw off seven attacks from Hilderbrandt from the same position. The two points which Phogat gave up were a scramble in which the USA wrestler finally managed to expose Phogat. But the Indian was quick to get out of the lock and get two points of her own.
“I respect her a lot,” Hilderbrandt said. “In February, I was pinned by her but that was a bad situation. Here I was doing the same moves but the outcome was different. I was unable to finish on her.”
Phogat is now keen to win her first medal and if she does, it will be a perfect finish to her stunning winning run this year.