Vinesh Phogat said she was ‘very, very proud’ after securing Tokyo Olympics qualification and clinching a bronze medal at the Wrestling World Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday.
Speaking after the triumph, Phogat said the medal was the culmination of years of hard work.
“I am feeling very happy. This is my first Worlds medal. For five years, I have been trying and trying; now I changed my weight category from 50 to 53 and finally, I win this medal and Olympic quota for my country. A very, very proud moment for me,” Phogat told reporters after her game.
Having endured a medal-less run in three World Championships before, Phogat finally ended the drought by pinning wrestler Maria Prevolaraki by fall in the bronze-medal bout.
“What I left in Rio, I hope to take in Tokyo,” Phogat said, referring to heartbreak at the 2016 Olympic Games when she retired hurt.
The 25-year-old Indian lost a point for passivity after Maria, the two-time medallist, suffered a cut on her face at the beginning of the bout. Phogat made two moves but Maria defended well to keep the narrow lead at the break.
Maria forced standing wrestling, locking Vinesh. The Indian attempted a double leg attack but Maria defended well. The Greek then put pressure on the Indian by grabbing her right leg.
Moments after Maria received treatment on her wound for a second time, Phogat pulled off a four-point throw and kept her on the ground to complete the win by fall.
She is only the fifth Indian woman wrestler to win a Worlds medal after Alka Tomar (2006), Geeta Phogat (2012), Babita Phogat (2012) and Pooja Dhanda (2018).
Here is Vinesh Phogat’s full interview after the bronze medal bout where she talks about how wrestling junior Indian men wrestlers helped her achieve the feat, among other things.
(With PTI inputs)