I have become stronger after Rio injury: Vinesh

The knee-injury which cut short her Rio Olympics campaign had left Vinesh Phogat writhing in pain but the tears in her eyes on Monday had a different meaning as she won a historic gold medal at the Asian Games here.

Vinesh was stretchered out of the wrestling arena in 2016 at the Rio Games after suffering a horrible knee injury and what followed was a long painful period of rehabilitation.

She rued the missed opportunity but decided not to break down and started her journey all over again.

“I had targeted gold. I had 3-4 silvers at the Asia level. So I was determined to win a gold. My body responded well. I had trained well and God was also kind to me. Everything fell in place for me today,” said Vinesh with moist eyes after winning gold in the 50kg freestyle category.

“Injuries are part of an athlete’s career. It is difficult both emotionally and physically. But I shrugged off everything to deliver some good medals recently. Someone has said an athlete becomes strong after injury and I feel I indeed have become stronger than before,” she added.

As fate would have it, Vinesh first took on China’s Yanan Sun against whom she lost that Rio Olympics bout.

Vinesh asserted that she always felt she is a stronger athlete than Sun and today was the day to prove it.

“There was pressure but it was to prove that I am actually stronger than her. I wanted to prove this because I lost thrice to her before,” she said.

The 23-year-old from Haryana is considered one of the most mentally strong wrestlers in India and she says it comes naturally to her.

“‘I work on this but I am like this from childhood. I have always been rough and tough. I take risks in life and they pay off. I have self-belief. I feel there is nothing that I can’t do,” said Vinesh, who won a gold at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games earlier this year.

Asked if she idolises any wrestler, Vinesh replied in the negative. She, however, said interactions with Sushil Kumar leaves a positive impact on her.

“I listen to Sushil ji a lot. Whatever he suggests I take note. In 2014 when I won bronze in Incheon he said, ‘don’t worry, whatever happens, happens for good. May be you have something bigger in store.’ I always remember this message from him,” Vinesh said.