Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia have been recommended for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award by the Wrestling Federation of India. (WFI)
Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia continue to rake in laurels, with both athletes being recommended for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. This is the India's highest sporting award and their achievements in the last couple of years have merited this award. Apart from Vinesh and Punia, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has recommended Rahul Aware, Harpreet Singh, Divya Kakran and Pooja Dhanda for Arjuna award while Virender Kumar, Sujeet Maan, Narendra Kumar and Vikram Kumar have been recommended for Dronacharya award. Bheem Singh and Jai Prakash have been recommended for the Dhyan Chand award. Vinesh recently became the first Indian female athlete to be nominated for the Laureus Sports Award.
Vinesh was one of the upcoming stars in the world of wrestling and was in a good position to win a medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics. However, in the women’s freestyle 48kg quarterfinal against China’s Sun Yanan, she injured her knee badly and many feared that she may not be able to wrestle again. However, doctors said that it was a tendon tear and not a fracture and that she would regain fitness again.
In 2018, Vinesh became the golden girl of Indian wrestling. She won gold in Women's Freestyle 50 kg event by defeating Canada's Jessica MacDonald in the 50 kg category to win India's first gold in the women's wrestling category at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast. In the 2018 Asian Games, she created history as she became the first Indian woman wrestler to win gold in the Asian Games by beating Japan's Yuki Irie in Women's 50 kg Freestyle Wrestling gold medal match. With her performances in the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, Vinesh is one of the best bets for a medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
On the other hand, Punia, who bagged the top prize at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games last year, has won four gold medals and one silver in the last five tournaments. This was Punia's 10th medal in as many international tournaments since failing to finish at the podium in the 2017 World Championships in Paris. He is currently the No.1 ranked male wrestler. The 24-year-old Punia, who has won five medals this season, including CWG and Asian Games gold and a silver at the World Championship, was placed atop the ranking table with 96 points in the UWW list. It has been a remarkable season for Punia, who was also the only Indian grappler to be given a seeding at the Budapest World Championship. "Every athlete nurtures the dream to be world number one in his career. But If I had become number one with a World Championship gold, it would have been better," Bajrang had told told PTI.