Vinesh Phogat has won India the first-ever Asian Games gold in women’s wrestling. She achieved this mean feat a few weeks after recovering from a serious injury. “It was a tough time emotionally and physically. But as they say, an athlete becomes stronger once she overcomes an injury. I think that phase has made me stronger,” she recollected after winning gold. “She was extremely strong mentally – I just had to plan on making her strong and reconstruct little bit of her technique,” said her Hungarian coach Woller Akos. Vinesh indulged in a lot of cross-training; weightlifting was a major addition to her programme, recording personal bests of 75kg in clean and jerk, and 117.5kg in dead-lifts.
This girl certainly has that killer instinct which separates the winners from the also-rans. It’s something US-based former tennis pro Vijay Amritraj feels Indian athletes lack, and that is why they return empty handed from international games. “We have the opportunity, we have the talent and certainly now we have the corporate sponsorship. At the moment there is absolutely no excuse for the athletes in our country,” the former Davis Cup captain told PTI.
Take the disappointing performance of the Indian contingent at the ongoing Asian Games 2018, for example. India returned without a gold in kabaddi for the first time in the history of the Asian Games after Iran shocked their women’s team 24-27 in the final on Friday to join their male counterparts in walking away with the top honours. This is what coach L Srinivas Reddy had to say in his defence: “The men team’s defeat had come as a shock for me and the players. Somewhere it played in our minds. It created double pressure that we have to go back with a gold medal.”
Psychoanalyst RB Shah says, “The lack of a killer instinct springs from an over-dependence on authority. We [Indians] like obeying. There is, in fact, a subconscious feeling of guilt in winning. The will to win and competitiveness is just not very strong in the Indian mind.” Agrees Amritraj, “Our Indian athletes faithfully adhere to the Olympic spirit and believe participation is more important but the athletes in Western countries and the US believe in winning medals by competing.”
Amritraj advocated picking a sport and training the athletes in a professional manner and providing them with opportunities to excel at the global levels to shed the tag of the underdogs. If we remain underdogs and never attain the status of favourites, we will continue to give a long shot and remain underdogs.