CHENNAI: A day after the ad-hoc committee declared the dates of selection trials for the World Championships, wrestler Vinesh Phogat on Tuesday announced that she won't be competing at the Asian Games because of a knee injury. Vinesh along with Bajrang Punia was given direct entry into the national squad for the Asian Games in September and October. Vinesh's withdrawal means Antim Panghal, who won the Asian Games selection trials, will now represent the country at the quadrennial event in Hangzhou, China.
"I wanted to share an extremely sad piece of news. A couple of days ago on 13th August 2023, I injured my left knee in training. After doing the scans and examinations, the doctor has said that unfortunately, surgery is the only option for me to recover," Phogat wrote on a social networking site. "I will be undergoing surgery on 17th August in Mumbai. It was my dream to retain my Asian Games gold medal for India which I won in 2018 in Jakarta. But unfortunately, this injury has ruled out my participation now."
Bajrang and Vinesh were the face of protest against sidelined Wrestling Federation of India president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh which eventually led to the formation of the ad-hoc panel to run the sport in the country.
Vinesh, a two-time World Championships bronze medallist, also claimed that she has informed all concerned authorities immediately so that the reserve player can be sent to the Asian Games. While the Sports Authority of India (SAI) said a message was conveyed to it, the ad-hoc panel said it was not apprised of the decision until late on Tuesday. "She did not inform the panel about the injury or her decision to pull out as of now," one of the two members of the committee told this daily.
The said injury will not only force Vinesh to miss the Asian Games but she has to skip the Worlds as well. The selection trials to pick the team for the tournament are on August 25 and 26 in Patiala. The Worlds, which is scheduled in Belgrade, Serbia from September 16 to 24, is also the first qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Withdrawal might be heartbreaking for Vinesh but it has certainly lifted the spirit of Antim, who is in Amman City, Jordan to defend her U-20 World Championships title. She became the first Indian to be crowned U20 champion when she won the 53kg title last year. "We informed her and she was extremely happy. She said it will help her in fighting with renewed energy in the tournament and defend her title," Ram Niwas Panghal, Antim's father, told this daily.
Wrestler Vishal's father challenges Punia
Vinesh's announcement may put pressure on Bajrang as he remains the lone wrestler in the Indian team who accepted a direct entry. Incidentally, Bajrang visited Indian Navy's Raipur Akhada in Sonepat, where he had been training off and on, on Tuesday. While one of his rivals from the 65kg weight category Sujeet Kalkal trains at the Raipur facility, it is Vishal Kaliraman, the one to win the Asian Games trials but was made a stand-by by the ad-hoc panel, who could intensify his bid for inclusion in the national team.
And his father, Subhash, fired the fresh salvo as well on Tuesday. "Vinesh has withdrawn, now Bajrang should decide soon. Give Vishal one bout. Choose the venue and let us know. If you win, compete in the Asian Games but if you lose, let Vishal represent the country," Subhash told this daily. A khap panchayat was also held in Sisai village on Monday in support of Vishal, who hails from the place. It was attended by sarpanchs from 25 villages. A bigger panchayat is scheduled next week to garner more support.