Sonam Malik chases fitness, Vinesh Phogat fresh momentum - Hindustan Times

Sonam Malik chases fitness, Vinesh Phogat fresh momentum

Feb 05, 2022 09:45 PM IST

Young Malik and the seasoned Phogat are among 48 wrestlers who will attend the women’s national camp ahead of a 2022 season that has the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games

For the last six months, young wrestler Sonam Malik has chased a single objective: fitness.

File image of Vinesh Phogat(Getty Images)
File image of Vinesh Phogat(Getty Images)

She has been running through the lanes of Madina village in Sonipat, Haryana every morning before starting her fitness and skill training at the nearby Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Sports Complex.

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Malik, 20, will make a fresh start on Monday at the national camp being held in the Sports Authority of India’s Lucknow Centre as she begins the pursuit of her “mission success” at this year’s Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.

Malik is yet to reach 100% fitness and knows how crucial the next four-five months will be for her with several events scheduled for this year. The CWG will be staged in Birmingham in July and the Asian Games will be held in Hangzhou, China in September.

Last August 2021 at the Tokyo Olympics, Malik lost her opening 62kg bout on criteria to Mongolia's Bolortuya Khurelkhuu. The bout had ended 2-all, but her opponent was awarded victory as both her points came in a single move while Malik had scored separately.

“I am focusing on my fitness first. I am about to achieve my full fitness soon. I have already begun my skill training, but I’m not putting much pressure on myself,” Malik said on Saturday.

“A loss in the opening round at Tokyo was really disappointing, but that was a big lesson for me. I need to start afresh at the camp. I am looking for success at both the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.”

Her coach Ajmer Malik is confident of Malik achieving full fitness well before the Asian Games. “She began training soon after coming back from Tokyo. She has already started skill training. I am sure she will be ready to (be) 100% fit and fine before the trials,” he said.

The national camp, which will run until March 31, will have 48 participants, including 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik and 2018 Asian Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat.

“The upcoming season is full of big events and Indians would be starting with a ranking event at Istanbul later this month,” Wrestling Federation of India’s assistant secretary Vinod Tomar said.

“Sonam may not be going for the meet at Istanbul as her fitness report has not been submitted, but she is very much in the scheme of things of WFI.”

Tomar said though it has not been decided, there could be one common trials to select the Indian teams for both the Asian Games and CWG. “There is very little gap between the two big events, so we may be conducting common trials at the camp,” he said.

The Istanbul event will mark the comeback of former world no 1 Vinesh Phogat, who has not competed since the Tokyo Olympics, where she lost in the quarter-finals after a disappointing performance while struggling with a career-threatening injury.

Times have been tough for the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games champion after her Olympics exit. She was banned by WFI on account of indiscipline for allegedly refusing to train with the Indian wrestlers in Tokyo. The suspension was later lifted.

After the Olympics, Phogat tried to make a comeback but was plagued by injuries and discomfort. She also took time to recover from an elbow surgery. Though still not declared “fully fit”, the wrestler is on the road to recovery. After the Istanbul event, Phogat aims to compete in the Asian championships, followed by the CWG and Asian Games.

If all goes according to plan, she is expected to change her weight category in Istanbul. “Vinesh will not compete in her usual 53kg. She will take part in 55kg. It could be a one-off,” said a WFI official on condition of anonymity.

The national camp will also mark a takeover by new chief coach in Jitender Yadav, who has replaced Kuldeep Malik. Yadav is a former national level wrestler from Services who had long coaching stints with Air Force, junior India teams and in Pro League Wrestling.

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    Sharad Deep is a versatile sports journalist, who loves writing on cricket and Olympic sport. He has played cricket at the university level and has been writing for Hindustan Times since 1997.

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