Following the quarterfinal defeat at the Tokyo Olympics, the eventual criticism of her performance, and a suspension from the Wrestling Federation of India on grounds of indiscipline, Vinesh Phogat has finally broken her silence. She detailed on her struggles with injury and mental health as she prepared for the Tokyo Olympics, and also talked about her ordeals on the day she was scheduled to compete at the Games.
Vinesh also hinted that she might take a break from wrestling. “I don’t know when I will return (to the mat). Maybe I won’t. I feel I was better off with that broken leg. I had something to correct. Now my body is not broken, but I’m truly broken,” she wrote for the Indian Express as she recounts her experience.
The 26-year-old wrestler revealed that she was in pain on the day of her bout, adding that she underwent a weight cut. Vinesh also said that she was given a physio from the shooting team when she arrived in Tokyo.
“I was reducing weight. I was my own physio and I was the wrestler. I was assigned a physio from the shooting team. She did not understand my body. My sport has very specific demands. She couldn’t help me with what my regular physio used to. Last day, when I am reducing weight, am I supposed to explain things to her on how things are done in wrestling, or focus on myself? It’s unfair on both of us,” wrote Phogat, adding that she phone-called her long-term physio Purnima Ngomdir while on her way to the stadium, “asking her desperately what I could do.”
The wrestler said that while she handled pressure better in Tokyo as compared to Rio (2016 Olympics), her struggles on the day of the bout, coupled with her COVID infection and a past head injury were all decisive in her outing in Tokyo.
“I had a concussion in 2017, since then I have suffered from it. Things become blurry. It has gone down a lot but when my head strikes on anything, it comes back,” she wrote.
Phogat also defended her coach Woller Akos, crediting her support staff for her achievements in the past three years. “Woller travelled with me, to help me, stayed with me in Lucknow when his one-year-old son was in Budapest. When COVID hit, he continued training and motivated me when the Olympics was postponed. He did not care about his personal life. How can you blame that person?” Phogat wrote.
The wrestler further revealed that she was diagnosed with depression after changing her weight category, which further worsened after the injury in 2019. “Now, I find it difficult to cry. I have zero mental strength right now. Like they did not even let me regret my loss. Everyone was ready with their knives,” wrote Phogat.