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Vinesh Phogat Explains Why She Did Not Stay with Indian Team at Tokyo Olympics

Vinesh Phogat shared why she did not live with the Indian team at Tokyo Olympics. (Reuters Photo)

Vinesh Phogat shared why she did not live with the Indian team at Tokyo Olympics. (Reuters Photo)

Vinesh Phogat said she did not want to put the Indian team at risk by staying with them.

Vinesh Phogat was temporarily suspended by Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) for alleged indiscipline on three counts during her Tokyo Olympics campaign. She apparently did not wear the name of the official sponsor of the Indian contingent and she refused to stay with the Indian team at the Games Village. Vinesh has time till August 16 to respond to the notice from the federation. But before that Vinesh has gone on to publicly express her struggle at the Games and has also mentioned her reasons for not staying with the team.

Vinesh has contracted coronavirus twice in the last one year. She first tested positive for coronavirus in August 2020 and since then she hasn’t been able to digest protein. The second time she got Covid-19 was after she returned from the Asian Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan in April.

Vinesh, who trained in Hungary with her coach Woller Akos, says she did not stay with the Indian team in Tokyo because she did not want to put them at any risk of contracting the virus.

“When these things have happened, why will I stay with the Indian team? They were tested everyday for seven days. I wasn’t. What if I got it on the flight and infected them? I was, in fact, thinking about them and wanted to stay away for 2-3 days to be sure that they were not at risk. What’s the big deal? After 2-3 days I was going to join them and even began training with Seema. So there’s no question of me not being a team-player," she wrote in her tell-all piece to Indian Express.

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Vinesh staunchly defended her coach Woller, who has been accused by WFI of misusing funds given for Vinesh’s training by the Indian government. “Vinesh trained in Hungary for two years. His coach Woller Akos also comes from Hungary. He has fooled us with his training methods. He trained his wife Mariana Sustin and Vinesh together in Hungary. His wife also qualified but lost in the first round. Therefore, it is possible that he used the grant money from the Government of India for his wife’s training," Brij Bhushan Saran Singh, president of the Wrestling Federation of India claimed.

Vinesh wrote about the sacrifices Woller has made to train and help her and said everything that she has won has also been with the same support staff.

“And which team did I not train with? No one asked me what I did or who I was with. If you were really expecting a gold, then shouldn’t my long term physio Purnima have been there? (My coach) 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?

“Woller did everything. He didn’t stop crying when I lost. His wife didn’t stop crying. She’s a 4-time Olympian, and was only of help to my training being from a higher weight category. I’ve won these last three years with the same support staff," she said.

Vinesh said she hasn’t recovered from the Tokyo heartbreak. “I slept once since I reached home. I slept for two hours on the flight and sometimes in the Village. There, I would walk alone and drink coffee. I was alone. When the sun would rise, I felt sleepy.

“I never said make me a contender for gold. I am wrestling for myself and I was the first to feel awful after losing, but let me do it. Leave me alone.

“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 concluded.

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first published:August 13, 2021, 12:20 IST