" Earlier, we got support from only the women, they encouraged us a lot. But the elderly men disapproved of our playing the sport in athlete's gear. Geeta changed their mind-set. Now the same people come to us and say that they were wrong and wish they had daughters like us, signed off Vinesh."
By Sandip Sikdar

New Delhi, Sep 4 - Her gold medal-winning performance at the recently concluded Glasgow Commonwealth Games has imposed an immense burden of expectations upon India's woman wrestler Vinesh Phogat for her to win a medal at the forthcoming Asian Games.

The 20-year-old from Balali, Haryana, surprised wrestling aficionados by winning the gold in Glasgow, beating England's Yana Rattigan in the 48 kg freestyle final.

Now, everyone -- from her coach to family and friends -- expects her to win a medal at the Asian Games to be held in the South Korean city of Incheon from Sep 19 to Oct 4.

There is a lot of pressure on me. When I went to the Commonwealth Games, the pressure was not so much, but now it has doubled. Earlier, people did not know me but ever since I won the gold, people are expecting medals from me every time I go into a major event, Vinesh told IANS.

Vinesh is the sister of two illustrious female grapplers Geeta and Babita who have won medals at the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships.

My sisters want me to win a medal. My coaches regularly keep saying -- 'Vinesh you have to make the final bout'. In case I don't win a medal, people will get upset. So I really hope to do well, added Vinesh, who turned 20 last month.

Vinesh is looking to become only the third Indian woman to claim a medal at the continental Games after Alka Tomar (freestyle 55 kg) won bronze and Geetika Jakhar (freestyle 63 kg) took silver at the 2006 Doha Games.

The diminutive Haryana girl is aware that the competition at Incheon will be much tougher than in Glasgow but remains optimistic about her chances.

My confidence has gone up a lot because of the gold I won in Glasgow. These medals give you the motivation to perform better at bigger stages. The Commonwealth gold will give me confidence going into the Asian Games, said Vinesh, adding that Babita's presence there will be a big help.

The level of the Asian Games will be almost that of the Olympics. It is going to be extremely difficult because wrestlers from Asian countries are very tough competitors. I am practising rigorously and hope to win the Asiad gold. Let us see what God gives me!

Asked how life has changed for her after the Commonwealth gold, Vinesh said: It feels very good. People know me now, they come to talk to me and get photographed with me. It has also changed the attitude of people in our village to women taking to sports.

Earlier, we got support from only the women, they encouraged us a lot. But the elderly men disapproved of our playing the sport in athlete's gear. Geeta changed their mind-set. Now the same people come to us and say that they were wrong and wish they had daughters like us, signed off Vinesh.

(Sandip Sikdar can be contacted at [email protected])


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