New Delhi: For India’s Rio-bound wrestlers, their toughest training programme begins now. Ahead of any major championships, the last 30 days are crucial for grapplers who have to double their workout sessions, follow a near-starvation diet — restrict intakes of meals and sometimes even water.
“The process is tough mentally and physically, especially two-three days ahead of competition. We have to lose weight, skip our meals sometimes, and there are hopes of the fans and country which we have to live up to,” Vinesh Phogat, who will represent the country in 48kg freestyle women’s wrestling, said.
“The pressure of expectation also tends to make us think negatively, sometimes. But I am lucky that I will have my sister Babita in the team. She will be a big support in Rio. She knows my strong and weak points, and we can motivate each other.”
Vinesh will have her cousin Babita Kumari (53kg freestyle) and Sakshi Malik (58kg freestyle) alongside in Rio. This is for the first time that India will field three women wrestlers at the Olympics.
Just days of the Games, the women were assigned a female physiotherapist who will accompany them to Rio. The Wrestling Federation of India named Mumbai-based Rucha Kashalkar for the job as she was also with the team in Madrid recently where they competed at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Elated with the development, Vinesh said they would be able to focus on their competitions without the fear of injury. “It will be helpful if she goes with us. We lose a lot a weight ahead of our fights, which makes us injury-prone,” Vinesh pointed out.
Coach Kuldeep Singh said that the regime ahead of major competitions was tougher than usual. “The three-four days ahead of the fight are strenuous and wrestlers have to even stop intake of water during that time. They lose around 3 to 4 kgs. It is tough for them to focus. But the seniors are used to it and they can overcome it,” Kuldeep said, stressing that the “physio’s role becomes crucial there on”.
‘Will aim for gold’
Vinesh, the youngest of the Phogat sisters, said she is prepared to chase her dream — of winning gold — in Rio. “Every opponent will be tough at the Olympics. They will be in Rio after a lot of hard work and training. Asian wres-tlers are strong opponents, I am also an Asian and I consider myself tough.
“I am only thinking about the gold, as we already have brought home silver and bronze.
The country has hopes on me and I want to live up to them and my expectations,” said the 25-year-old on her chances.
The Haryana wrestler said the Pro Wrestling League was a big boost for her mentally, following a poor performance at the World Championship in Las Vegas.
“Playing in the league was very helpful for us. It gave us an international-level platform where we competed against medallist wrestlers. It was a much needed competition for me as it lifted my morale. I was able to prove myself.”