Despite period cramps, a busted knee, and competing on an empty stomach, Vinesh Phogat won the World Championships

A savage buffeting concussion from the past, period cramps, hunger, a busted knee, a bewildered opponent, and finally bronze.

Vinesh Phogat’s second World Championship medal in this soundless background din made her laugh uproariously when she remembers the last few days.“I don’t know if I’m lucky or lucky to get a repechage chance, or if I’m an unlucky person to get my periods right before the tournament while I was cutting weight (no food and water),” she wonders, saying she’s relieved with the medal, and happy finally after the Olympic nightmare.

When she was in transit in Dubai on the way to Belgrade for the Worlds, she got her period (“taqleef waale circumstances”). She jokes, “Kabhi kabhi lagtaa hai, ladka hoti toh achha hota (At times, I wish I was a boy),” wishing away the menace of menstruation. When she tried period-stopping tablets for the first time, she thought all the hard work of the past 10 months was gone.

Because she was trying to cut weight, she was dehydrating, starving, and doing heavy cardio, so the lack of recovery didn’t help before her first match, where she lost 0-7. When the body gives up, I leave it all on the mat. All women athletes deal with it. “Koi koi bolta nahi, koi survive kar jaate hai (some don’t mention, some survive).” Vinesh didn’t speak. Vinesh made it through.

During the Asian Championships in 2019.”I competed with periods and got injured twice. Research says bones get brittle during monthly cycles and are particularly susceptible to injury. It wasn’t a worry that could be cured.”I couldn’t recover in time, and I lost hope,” she says.

Repechage demands that you hope the opponent you lost to progresses. Vinesh watched Mongolian Khulan Batkhuyag trail 0-6. It turned out to be a lucky day.”Main toh lucky nikli (I got lucky),” she chuckles, recalling how she kept saying Mongolian would cause a fall, and the next moment, it happened. My hard work may have been rewarded by God.

She went into the CWG confident after overcoming physical battles, putting the early nerves at the CWG aside, having lost to Kazakh Zhuldyz Eshimova earlier this year. In the bronze playoff, her body sent her two contradictory signals – it was begging for rest after weight cuts and periods, but she was buzzing with competitive hunger. As a result of her good read on the Kazakh’s game, she stayed sharp against the Mongolian, who she’d never played before.

Vinesh almost waited for the inevitable trip-up. “I knew it would strike back,” she says half-joking, half-frightened.I got it against Emma Malmgren.When she was throwing her first throw against the Swede, her knee snapped.

Vinesh believes Malmgren was more scared by the audible crackle than she was.After hearing it, she got more scared, and I found her unbalanced.But my body was so warm, I could collect points.”

Bronze was won 8-0.”Two to three days of swelling, then again 1-2 months.””All over again,” she says wryly.Compared to the Olympics, elbow surgery sounds easy.I was so scared of everything else going on around me, I didn’t even notice the elbow surgery.After Rio Games, I had a nasty surgery.She recalls the painful phase of her Gandaa surgery.”This time, I was so worried about the other stuff. Kaat do, maar do, kuchh boora ni lagaa.” Cut her open, stitch her up.The elbow just shrugged it off.

Neurological problems

Her concussion troubles often blanked her out on the mat, so the elbow didn’t really bother her.You can see swellings on X-rays with bones, but not with muscles.When you can’t see the wound, how do you explain feeling disoriented and blacking out? She was haunted by what happened at the Tokyo Olympics.

It took five neurosurgeons across India, a few chats with concussion experts from Australia and South Africa, and a calm, doctor-led treatment plan to fix it.It’s thanks to my team and all the doctors who tried to help me that the problem didn’t happen at CWG or World Championships.She was dreading it happening again.

Since she consulted her coach, she’s been taking medication for a year.”He guided me through all the scans and treatments.Zoom chats were mostly what we did,” she remembers, cautiously getting started.The medal was nice, but I was happier that it didn’t happen again!” she says, happy now.To prevent a second concussion, she has quietly strengthened her neck muscles.

It’s time for tea and temples

After getting her knee fixed, Vinesh wants to find sparring and training abroad before the 2023 Asian Games.“I’ve been feeling the need to spar with higher level wrestlers to improve, and I hope I get that training exposure.”

She’s going to visit five temples – something she’s been wanting to do.To start, Kedarnath and Badrinath.I’m a very boring person, I don’t know how to celebrate.”I’ll train after that, but I can’t lose my fitness,” she says.

After the medal, she’s looking forward to eating, for example.I’ve been on an extra strict diet since last month.Before the Commonwealth Games, I wasn’t eating right.Even drinking tea felt like a sin at home since everyone knows I need to control.My mother asked me this time: I want to drink chai properly at home.I’ll enjoy chai guilt-free for a few weeks.” And chuckle at the 50 shades of luck (and unluck) that regularly cross her path.

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