It was neither the competition nor her opponents which bothered Vinesh Phogat ahead of her bouts on Monday. Hours before she first stepped on the mat against Sun Yanan, the 23-year old wrestler and the Indian coaching staff were sweating over something far more basic — her weight.
Vinesh was more than four kilograms above the requisite weight when she landed here and had only three days to bring it down. While it is normal in weight-specific sports like boxing and wrestling for athletes to manage 1-1.5 kg around competitions, four kg is not common and coach Kuldeep Malik admitted they were concerned.
“Four kg in three days is a lot and it is rare for anyone to manage that much loss. What was more worrying for us was that she is in a lower weight category (50kg) which doesn’t give much leeway for reduction and she doesn’t have any fat on her body. So the entire weight would have had to be cut in the form of muscles and water only. That is even more difficult,” Malik told
The weight loss would also directly affect her strength and stamina and the coaches knew it was a big risk. “We put her on only liquid diet for three days. We made her work out in a non air-conditioned hall to increase sweating, doubled the number of training sessions and sparring bouts, made her run a lot and, despite all this, were still not sure if we would manage it successfully by weigh-in. Thankfully, it worked,” Malik explained, adding that once the weight target was achieved, the loss of muscle became a worry.
“She definitely was not at her strongest in competition. That she managed to win gold despite all this is also credit to her mental toughness,” the coach said.
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