As expected, the Indian freestyle wrestling campaign at the Rio Olympics began on a high note on Wednesday with the two in the fray—Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik—progressing to the quarterfinals with relative ease. However, disaster struck when Vinesh, a bright medal contender in the women’s 48kg category, injured her right knee during the quarterfinal bout.
A little after Vinesh was stretchered out of the venue in agony, Sakshi, fighting in the 58kg class, lost her quarterfinal bout to higher-ranked Valeria Zholobova Koblova of Russia. Sakshi, however, has a shot at the bronze medal through the repechage rounds as Koblova, a favourite for gold, progressed to the final.
If Sakshi wins her first repechage bout, she will enter the bronze-medal play-off. The Indian camp will be hoping Sakshi reaches the podium after Vinesh’s heartbreaking exit.
Vinesh was in tears lying on the mat, clutching her right leg. She was leading 1-0 in her quarterfinal bout against Sun Yanan of China when, while resisting an ankle tap, she injured her knee (a possible ligament tear) and conceded the bout.
Getting stretchered out of the venue after suffering an injury during competition is the worst way to bow out of the Olympics. Vinesh was in pain, from the injury and the agony of having to see all the effort of the last four years go down the drain in such an unfortunate fashion.
The wrestler had showed good form in outclassing her pre-quarterfinal opponent, Alina Emilia Vic of Romania, 11-0, displaying the technical versatility that she is known for. After she had assessed her opponent, she started executing takedowns at will, following it up with gut-wrench rolls.
Vinesh was showing signs that she is serious about getting on the podium at the wrestling venue, till fate intervened and her knee gave in.