'I have zero mental strength right now' - Vinesh Phogat on how Tokyo Olympics loss affected her

Vinesh Phogat lost against Vanesa Kaladzinskaya of Belarus in the quarterfinals at Tokyo 2020. AP Photo/Aaron Favila

Vinesh Phogat has hinted that she could be taking a break from wrestling following a tough Tokyo Olympics campaign and the criticism and scrutiny that has followed. Vinesh, who was suspended on grounds of indiscipline following her return from Tokyo, hit back at the Wrestling Federation of India, while opening up about her struggles with injury, fitness and mental health in the lead-up to and during the 2020 Olympics.

"I have given everything to wrestling and now is the right time to leave. But on the other hand, by chance I leave and don't fight, it'll be a bigger loss for me," Vinesh wrote in the Indian Express.

She wrote that while she handled the pressure much better in Tokyo than in Rio, she was in pain on the day of the bout. She attributed her struggles to the weight cut on the day, her covid infections in the earlier months and a past head injury.

"I had a concussion in 2017, since then I have suffered from it. Things become blurry. It has gone down a lot but when my head strikes on anything, it comes back," she wrote.

Vinesh criticised the WFI for not allowing her to take her long-term physio with her, adding that the physio they assigned to her was one that was originally with the shooting team, and did not 'understand her body'. Vinesh said that she was struggling so much following the weight cut that she vomited on the bus on the way to the bout, and had to call her long-term physio to ask her what to do.

"I wanted to stay away for 2-3 days to be sure that they were not at risk. What's the big deal? After 2-3 days I was going to join them and even began training with Seema (Bisla). So there's no question of me not being a team-player," Vinesh wrote.

Vinesh also revealed that she was diagnosed with depression in 2019, when she changed her weight category, and has had trouble with sleep ever since. She said that the abuse she and her team received after Tokyo has made things worse.

"Now, I find it difficult to cry. I have zero mental strength right now. Like they did not even let me regret my loss. Everyone was ready with their knives," she said.

Vinesh also defended her coach Woller Akos and the entire support staff, crediting them for her success over the past three years. She also added that for Indian athletes, speaking up about mental health issues remains a big challenge. "We celebrate Simone Biles as she said that I am not mentally prepared to perform at the Olympics and did not do her event. Try just saying that in India. Forget pulling out of wrestling, just try saying that you are not ready," she wrote.