Mental toughness helped me handle weight transition: Vinesh Phogat

The Olympian never looked out of place despite moving up a weight category last year and felt it was down to how prepared she was mentally.

Indian wrestler Vinesh Phogat enjoyed a stellar year in 2019.

She won bronze at the World Championships - her first in the event - and secured a quota at the Tokyo Olympics in the process.

What was more remarkable is the fact that the 25-year-old had only made the switch to the 53kg weight category at the beginning of 2019 and for someone who had moved up the weight charts, she handled the transition smoothly.

The Indian wrestler admitted that she did not feel confident enough at first but the self-doubt dissipated quite quickly.

“I think every competitor in 53kg is tough,” she revealed to the Olympic Channel. “I used to wrestle in the 50kg category for a long time."

“I never had the experience of fighting in the 53kg category and was a bit hesitant initially, but once you are on the mat all that is forgotten and it's about what you do in those six minutes.”

“I strongly believe that your mental preparedness shines in such situations. The wrestler to make the least number of mistakes wins.”

Reaching a world-class level

Japan has been a powerhouse in womens wrestling recently with the presence of Mayu Mukaida and Risako Kawai making it a very tough prospect for other nations to win international medals.

However, Vinesh Phogat took the challenge to them when she beat Yuki Irie in the final to win gold at the 2018 Asian Games, making her the first female Indian wrestler to achieve the feat.

The win gave her the belief that she could compete at the same level - or higher - as her Japanese counterparts.

“I believe the gulf in quality did exist before, it's not just about Indian wrestlers, no one in the world could beat them,” she explained.

“But if you look at recent records, other countries have started catching up to them in the medals tally. Japan’s wrestlers are not assured of a medal every time they compete.”

The Indian wrestler looked in good enough form to launch her bid for a maiden medal at the Tokyo Olympics as she won gold at the Matteo Pellicone Memorial and then bronze at the Asian Wrestling Championships.

Her Olympic debut at Rio 2016 ended up being cut short by a knee injury suffered on the mat in her last eight bout. Phogat will be looking to forge new memories of the Olympics when the Games roll around next year.

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