Olympic Medallist Vinesh Phogat: Wrestling Her Way to the Top

Nov/11/2022 / by Melanie Fourie
Vinesh Phogat
Image credits: Pinterest

This Olympic medallist comes from a long line of great Indian wrestlers, and she’s no exception! As a two-time Olympian, Vinesh Phogat’s resume includes gold medals from the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, as well as a 2019 World Championships bronze. In 2019, Phogat also became the first Indian competitor to be eligible for the Laureus World Sports Awards. And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, this powerhouse became the Asian champion in 2021 too! The following profile is inspired by Olympics.com.

Childhood and Challenges

She was born on August 25, 1994, and hails from the Indian state of Haryana. Her uncle, Mahavir Singh Phogat, taught her to wrestle at a tender age. She actually hails from one of India’s most famous wrestling families, along with her cousins  Babita Kumari and Geeta Phogat! When Vinesh Phogat began wrestling, Geeta had already begun to make a name for herself on the national scene, but Vinesh still had to battle through  difficulties and societal obstacles. People in their village opposed Vinesh because they believed that wrestling was just a man’s activity and demanded that women be confined to their homes. 

Vinesh Phogat, as a nine-year-old girl, had to deal with the loss of her father too. Her uncle Mahavir, was a steadfast beacon in the darkness for the budding wrestler as she sought solace in the sport.

Career Advancement

In 2014, Vinesh earned her debut major global medal at the Commonwealth Games, taking gold in the 48kg division. As she prepared for her first Olympic appearance, Vinesh won more medals. As a result of clinching her Olympic qualifier in Istanbul, Vinesh had a high level of assurance heading into the Games in Rio.

Her hopes of earning a medal for India at the age of 21 were dashed when she advanced to the quarterfinals only. Her right knee dislocated halfway through the first session as she faced China’s Sun Yanan in the quarterfinals. Her grief and suffering were evident as she was carried off the floor sobbing, her medal hopes dashed. Vinesh, however, had faced adversity before and used it as a driving factor. When she competes, that injury inspires inspired her to win.

After winning gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, the Indian wrestler opted to compete in the 53kg division for 2019. Phogat was unaffected by the change, and in Nur-Sultan she won her first ever world championship gold after winning bronze in the Asian Wrestling Championships. There, she earned a spot in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Vinesh Phogat had been in sensational shape leading up to the Olympics in Tokyo. She earned her first gold medal in the Asian Championships in 2021 and was undefeated throughout the year. Vinesh Phogat, ranked first in the women’s 53kg division at Tokyo 2020, beating Sweden’s Sofia Mattsson before losing her next match against Belarus’ Vanesa Kaladzinskaya and failing to go any further in the tournament.

She subsequently admitted that she wasn’t in the ideal physical and mental form during Tokyo 2020 and required elbow surgery shortly thereafter. Even so and after taking a look at all her accomplishments at such a tender age. we know that Vinesh surely has the tenacity and fortitude to bring more glory to India moving forward! 

Family Life

Wrestler Somvir Rathee, a two-time gold winner in the national championship, married Vinesh on December 13, 2018. Their relationship dates back to 2011, when they met and fell in love while working for Indian Railways.

FAQs

When did Vinesh Phogat first become world renowned for her career?

In 2013, at the age of 19, Vinesh Phogat won a bronze medal in the 51kg weight class at the Asian Wrestling Championships in New Delhi. That year, she also won silver in the Commonwealth Wrestling Championships.

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