Vinesh Phogat returns to mat with gold in Kyiv tournament, pins rival in final

By Rekha Balakrishnan|1st Mar 2021
This was the first competition for Vinesh Phogat in 2021, who is the only Indian woman wrestler to have qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
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Indian wrestler Vinesh Phogat, on Sunday, pinned 2017 world champion V Kaladzinskay to grab a gold medal at the Outstanding Ukrainian Wrestlers and Coaches Memorial tournament in Kyiv and returned to the mat in style after a long coronavirus-forced break.


Up against the world number seven Belarusian, it was not an easy bout for the world number three Indian as the two grapplers kept testing each other with consistent attacks in the sea-saw battle in which Vinesh prevailed.


Vinesh opened up a 4-0 lead in the 53kg final with a throw which she initiated with a left-leg attack, but Kaladzinskay made it 4-4 with her brilliant move.

Vinesh took the break leading 6-4, adding to her score with a takedown 10 seconds before the break.

The Belarusian put pressure on the Indian with another four-point throw but with 25 seconds to go, Vinesh''s move fetched her four more points for a 10-8 lead. She got into a position from where she pinned Kaladzinskay to ensure herself a gold.


Since the coronavirus halted all competitions last year, it was the first competition for Vinesh, who is the only Indian woman wrestler to have qualified for the Tokyo Games.


Asked about her defence, Vinesh's Belgian coach Woller Akos said he would speak only after he discusses the bout with his ward.


The next tournament for Vinesh is the UWW ranking series event at Matteo Pellicone in Italy, where fellow Tokyo qualifiers Bajrang Punia and Ravi Dahiya will also be seen in action from March 4-7.


Last year, Vinesh won her first gold of the 2020 season at Rome Ranking series event on January 17. With her dominant performance, the wrestler overcame two strong Chinese opponents to qualify for the finals.


In the 53 kg finals, she overpowered Ecuador’s Luisa Elizabeth Valverde to clinch the gold. She never gave a chance to her opponent for an attack, rattled her with shoulder pulls, and won by a scoreline of 4-0. 


(Disclaimer: Additional background information has been added to this PTI copy for context)


Edited by Suman Singh

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