Star wrestler Vinesh Phogat’s hunt for gold at the Tokyo Olympics ended on Thursday with a stunning 9-2 defeat by fall to Belarus’ Vanesa Kaladzinskaya in the women’s 53kg quarter-final. Vinesh, who is the top-ranked wrestler in the 53kg category, now faces the possibility of returning from Tokyo without a medal if she doesn’t get a chance at the repechage rounds.
Vinesh had beaten Kaladzinskaya earlier this year in Ukraine. The reigning European champion executed her strategy perfectly as Vinesh could not find a way to wriggle out of the Belarusian’s headlocks.
Vinesh could not push Kaladzinskaya down her knees whenever she got behind her opponent with the Belarusian showing immense strength to keep her legs straight. The 26-year-old Indian used all her might but Kaladzinskaya’s defence would not crumble. Even the famous double-leg attack that Vinesh has used to get herself into position to pin her rivals, did not result in points.
If the Belarusian does not make the final, Vinesh’s Olympic campaign will end in another heart-breaking exit. She had suffered a quarterfinal defeat against China’s Sun in Rio Games, where she also endured a leg injury and was stretchered out of the mat. Before this bout, Vinesh had knocked out Rio Olympics bronze-winner and six-time world medallist Sofia Mattsson with a commanding 7-1 win.