Vinesh Phogat on Monday created history by becoming the first Indian woman wrestler to win a gold medal at the Asian Games, brushing aside her rivals with remarkable ease in the 50kg category here.
Vinesh was a medal-favourite in her category and was likely to face stiff competition from Japan’s Yuki Irie, whom she outplayed 6-2 in the final. It was the second gold for Indian wrestlers after Bajrang Punia’s win in the 65kg freestyle category on Sunday.
“I had targeted gold. I had 3-4 silvers at the Asia level. So I was determined to win a gold today. My body responded well. I had trained well and God was also kind to me. Everything fell in place for me today,” Vinesh Phogat said.
As fate would have it, Vinesh Phogat first faced 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 Monday 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 today because I lost thrice to her before. And I have done this today,” she said.
However, Rio Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik, competing in her first Asian Games, and Pooja Dhanda lost their bronze medal bouts tamely. In the men’s freestyle 125kg, Sumit Malik also lost his bronze medal bout, leaving India with just one medal from wrestling on Day 2.
Earlier, putting behind her heart-breaking loss at the Olympics two years ago, Vinesh began her victorious campaign with a revenge win against Sun against whom she had suffered that terrible knee injury, which cut short her journey in Rio.
This time Vinesh did not give her opponent any chance and came out a dominant winner with a 8-2 score.
In the next bout, she brushed aside the challenge of Korea’s Hyungjoo Kim by technical superiority. She ended the bout with a four-point throw.
Vinesh’s semi-final lasted just 75 seconds as she moved into the final with a ‘fitley’. She was already up 4-0 and then rolled over her opponent thrice with leg-lock.
The gold also enabled Vinesh to achieve another feat as she became the only woman wrestler to win two medals in back-to-back Asian Games. Vinesh had earlier won a bronze medal in the 48kg category at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.
Vinesh Phogat also won back-to-back gold medals in Glasgow and Gold Coast Commonwealth Games this year.
But Sakshi paid the price for being over-defensive and was left to fight for bronze in the 62kg category. She lost rather tamely (2-12) to Korea’s Hang Jungwon. Her bout was over before the first period ended.
CWG silver medallist Pooja was also outplayed 1-6 by her Japanese rival Katsuli Sakagami in the bronze medal bout in the 57kg category.
Pinki was the only girl not to reach the medal round as she lost her first round bout in the 53kg category against Mongolia’s Sumiya Erdenechimeg. She could not score a single point and lost her bout by technical superiority.
Sumit, the last remaining Indian in the men’s freestyle event, bit the dust in the 125kg as he could not fight his first round opponent even for two minutes, losing by technical superiority.
He made the repechage round and advanced to the bronze medal match, which he lost 0-2 to Uzbekistan’s Davit Modzmanashvili. Thus, the men’s freestyle campaign finished with just one gold medal from Bajrang Punia (65kg).
Earlier in the day, Sakshi was hardly challenged before her semi-final bout as she easily won against Thailand’s Salinee Srisombat (10-0) and Ayaulym Kassymova (10-0). She was up 4-0 in her semi-final round against Kyrgyzstan’s Aisuluu Tynybekova, but lost six points in a row by the end of the first period.
She led 7-6 with a throw down but became too defensive and looked to hold her rival with 10 seconds to go. The Kyrgyz wrestler took advantage and pushed Sakshi out of the mat to log match-winning two points.
Pooja, on the other hand, lost just one point en route the semi-finals as she outclassed Thailand’s Orasa Sookdongyor (10-0) and Uzbekistan’s Nabira Esenbae (12-1) but lost the last-four clash on technical superiority to Korea’s Myong Suk Jong.