Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan): That Vinesh Phogat is her own person was proved yet again when she altered the strategy devised by the coaches for the key Olympic qualification match and came out trumps.
Ahead of her world championships’ Olympic qualifying bout, the precise tactics suggested by coach Woller Akos were to ‘stay away from Sarah Ann Hildebrandt, block her right arm and protect the legs’. Vinesh said she did exactly the opposite.
“Coaches were suggesting something else but I felt something different on the mat and changed tactics accordingly. I felt she was getting in, but because I was not conceding point, it was exhausting her,” Vinesh told PTI in an interview after claiming the 53kg category bronze and the Tokyo Olympics berth here.
“So, I thought let’s lure her into leg attacks more and stay solid in defense to completely wear her out. I let her come in but held her off. It worked for me. I knew how much strength she had compared to mine,” she said.
The American number one got hold off of Vinesh’s right leg in the second repechage bout five times but could not convert those moves into points. “Even if she had scored a few points, she would have got tired because she would have used all her power,” Vinesh added.
The 25-year-old claims to be a person prone to mood swings even when it comes to smallest of matters like eating, sleeping, reading, and talking to people. Some advised her that she should not get married because she might lose spark but she proved them wrong. She knows what it means to win a big medal. She has not yet forgotton how the Rio Olympics injury confined her to a wheelchair for some weeks.
“My mother has almost stopped watching my bouts. She fears I may return with a broken leg again. Even if she watches, she will make it tough for others by shouting like ‘Arrey tang chhod de meri beti ki, tod na diyo’ (Leave the leg of my daughter, don’t break it).”
While her mother keeps praying when her bout is on, her husband Sombir Rathee chips in with his inputs. “He may not have won medals but has a sharp wrestling mind. He would come up saying the same things what my foreign coach would suggest.”
The world championship medal was missing from her CV for long and now that she has ticked the box, Vinesh said it gives her the cushion of a few months to plan better for ‘Mission Tokyo’. ‘It’s the first Olympic qualification tournament and a world championship too, so every athlete came here well-prepared and with a different mind set. Taking a medal from this group is definitely big for me. It’s a relief because now I have a lot of time to prepare for the Olympics. And it’s a bronze only. I want to convert it to a gold and also win the Olympic medal.’