Vinesh Phogat and coach Woller Akos leaving no stone unturned in preparation for Tokyo Olympics

Vinesh Phogat getting ready for Poland Open. (Source: UWW)
Vinesh Phogat getting ready for Poland Open. (Source: UWW)
Paul Thomas

Ace wrestler Vinesh Phogat will headline the 12-woman 53 kg bracket at the Poland Open Ranking Series scheduled to start on Tuesday (today).

The Indian wrestler will be the favorite to clinch the title in the final major international event before the Tokyo Olympics.

But her performance in Warsaw will be under the scanner as her coach Woller Akos believes there is still room for improvement.

“This is the last competition before the Olympic Games. I want to know what needs to be improved till Tokyo,” he told Sportskeeda from Hungary.

Since May, the duo has been training in Budapest, Hungary, and will leave for Poland on June 9.

Vinesh Phogat and her coach have left no stone unturned in the build-up to the Tokyo Olympics.

Woller Akos has been known for his strictness during training. He is a hard man to please. But it is something that has helped Vinesh Phogat reach greater heights despite moving up in weight.

READ: 5 wrestlers likely to dominate Poland Open Ranking Series

She moved up from the 48 kg and 50 kg weight divisions, where she enjoyed most of her success, to the 53 kg bracket. But she took no time to make the unfamiliar territory her own.

From her first competition in the new weight class, the Dan Kolov Tournament in March 2019, to the Asian Championships in May 2021, she has won 10 medals. Out of these, five were gold medals.

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Vinesh Phogat’s coach, however, believes the best is yet to come.

“We are fine. We are doing everything we need to do. like the previous two competitions (Matteo Pellicone Rome Ranking Series and Asian Championships), this will be a preparatory event. She won, we are happy but they were preparation tournaments. She was not in the greatest form, it was appropriate for that period,” he said.

The current world No.1 echoed her coach and added:

“I am on the right track. I have reached 85% in my performance. But the peak is yet to come. As we get close to the Olympics, I will start peaking.”

Vinesh Phogat, however, is in no hurry to hit the peak. She says there is still time to reach the maximum, and for now, it’s better to focus on the process.

Vinesh Phogat's training in Budapest

Coach Woller Akos had also arranged sparring partners from Ukraine and Hungary to help the Asian champion train correctly for the Tokyo Olympics. The coaching and practice are likely to benefit her in Poland as well as Tokyo.

The top wrestlers in Vinesh Phogat's weight category in Poland are all European. Training with wrestlers from Ukraine and Hungary will help her understand different European wrestling styles and develop new techniques.

"We have organised partners to her from Ukraine and Hungary! Iryna Husyak (European champion), Sofiia Bodnar (Cadet European champion and Ukrainian national team member), Mercédesz Dénes ( Cadet European champion, junior world silver medalist, U23 European medalist), some more girls and boys," Woller Akos said.

Vinesh Phogat has been working on new ground techniques and has been fine-tuning them since March's Matteo Pellicone Rome Ranking Series.

While Akos denied shedding any light on the topic, he dropped a subtle hint about it being on display in Poland.

"I don't say nothing... maybe she can use later maybe not," he said.

Big names of her weight class such as Mayu Mukaida (JAP), Jacara Winchester (USA), Qianyu Pang (CHN), and Sofia Mattsson (SWD) have decided to give the Ranking Series a miss.

However, it will not be an easy ride for Vinesh Phogat. She will face stiff competition from European medalists Annika Wendle (GER), Roksana Marta Zasina (POL), and world medalist Ekaterina Poleshchuk (RUS).

The 53 kg women's wrestling matches will be held on June 11.

Edited by Arjun Panchadar
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