Indian star wrestler Vinesh Phogat will compete in Rome next month

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has approved Vinesh Phogat’s candidacy to compete in next month’s Matteo Pellicone, a world ranking series in Italy.

Although he missed the last national championships, the 2019 53kg world bronze medalist will be able to participate in the Rome event which will be held from February 3-6.

Vinesh, however, will be competing at 55kg, a non-Olympic weight class, and not his usual 53kg class.

Confirming the development, WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said, “Vinesh has expressed his desire to participate in the Metteo Pellicone. The WFI follows a policy of fielding two athletes in each weight class. In addition to Vinesh, the women’s 55kg winner at the national championships will also represent India at the event.”

Vinesh, the 2018 Asian Games champion in Jakarta, was widely touted as a medal hopeful at the Tokyo Olympics, but the 27-year-old pulled out in the quarter-finals.

After the Tokyo Games last year, the wrestler took time to recover from her physical and mental issues. She also underwent elbow surgery in September which caused her to miss the senior national championships.

“Since Vinesh is an exceptional wrestler, we want to give her a chance to show her courage during the World Rankings Series,” said the WFI President.

However, to represent India at the Asian Games in Hangzhou in September, Vinesh will need to establish herself as the country’s number one wrestler in her weight class.

“We hope Vinesh can regain his lost fitness and earn a podium spot at Matteo Pellicone,” added the WFI President.

Two-time Olympian Vinesh recently said, “Every wrestler lives for competition and the chance to win. It’s the same with me. I’m going to start small and rise to the top once again.”

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Robert J. King