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After troubled times, Vinesh creates golden history

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Exactly one year and one day ago (August 5, 2021), star wrestler Vinesh Phogat suffered heartbreak and made an early exit from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Immediately after she was suspended by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) for indiscipline. Breaking her silence a few days later, she talked about the concussion and depression she suffered. In September she underwent surgery on her right elbow after pulling out of the World Championships.

Given the situations she was dealing with both on and off the wrestling mat, Vinesh was no longer in the limelight. Despite the emotional turmoil and physical pain, she returned to training putting behind all setbacks as she did in 2016 after a freak injury forced her out of the Rio Games.

She won the selection trials in 53kg to book a Birmingham ticket in May this year and pounced on her rivals at the Coventry Arena on Saturday to become the first Indian woman wrestler to win three successive gold medals at the Commonwealth Games. Only Sushil Kumar had bagged three gold at the event (66kg gold in 2010, 74kg gold in 2014 and 2018) before Vinesh achieved the feat.

“We always know that she will create history at the CWG and the way she demolished her rival from Canada in the first bout, it was quite evident that she would finish on top of the podium,” Om Prakash Dahiya, Vinesh’s coach, told this daily.

The opening bout was supposed to be the toughest one for the Haryana wrestler as she was scheduled to face world 2021 World Championships bronze medallist Samantha Stewart from Canada. However, Vinesh pinned her in 36 seconds to start her campaign with a bang. She then outclassed Nigerian Mercy Bolafunoluwa Adekuoroye in the next bout. With only four wrestlers in the women’s 53kg draw, Vinesh needed to beat Chamodya Keshani Maduravalage from Sri Lanka to create history and she did it with ease to bag gold.

Gold for Ravi, Naveen

Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Ravi Dahiya (57kg) also had an easy start as he defeated Suraj Singh from New Zealand 10-0 by technical superiority in 1:14 minutes. Pakistan’s Asad Ali was his next opponent but it didn’t matter. Ravi emerged victorious 14-4, once again by technical superiority. The final was no different as the 24-year-old Ravi beat Ebikewenimo Welson from Nigeria 10-0 by technical superiority to win gold in his maiden CWG outing. Another debutant Naveen (74kg) defeated Pakistan rival Muhammad Sharif Tahir in the final to win India’s third gold on the second and final day of the wrestling competition.

Meanwhile, Pooja Gehlot (50kg), Pooja Sihag (76kg) and Deepak Nehra (97kg) won a bronze in their respective weight categories to make it 12 medals out of 12 wrestling events. Deepak beat Pakistan’s grappler Tayab Raza in the final.

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