Wrestler Vinesh Phogat, who was recently suspended by the Wrestling Federation of India, has revealed her struggle with mental health issues and says is "truly broken".
"We celebrate Simone Biles as she said that I am not mentally prepared to perform at the Olympics and did not do her event. Try just saying that in India. Forget pulling out of wrestling, just try saying that you are not ready. I don’t know when I will return (to the mat). Maybe I won’t. Now my body is not broken, but I’m truly broken," she wrote in a column published in The Indian Express on Friday.
The Wrestling Federation of India had temporarily suspended Vinesh after she reportedly refused to stay with the rest of the Indian women's wrestling contingent at the Games Village and also refused to wear a wrestling singlet with the team's sponsor's logo. She instead was seen competing in a singlet with her personal sponsor, Nike's logo.
Vinesh said she had been diagnosed with depression in Spain in 2019 and was not able to sleep. The situation worsened when she returned to India and would start crying if a coach spoke to her in a high tone.
Vinesh revealed that her body struggles to digest protein ever since she contracted Covid-19 in August 2020. On returning from the Asian Championships held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, she fell ill again and had Covid-19 once again. After recovering, she flew to Bulgaria, but then her family tested positive. She said that fear of contracting Covid again was the reason behind her not staying with the Indian contingent at the Games village.
"When these things have happened, why will I stay with the Indian team? They were tested everyday for seven days. I wasn't. What if I got it on the flight and infected them? I was, in fact, thinking about them and wanted to stay away for 2-3 days to be sure that they were not at risk. What's the big deal?" she said, adding that she would have joined them after 2-3 days and had even begun training with fellow wrestler Seema. "So there's no question of me not being a team-player."
Vinesh said she consumed salt capsules and drank electrolytes to deal with the Tokyo humidity. She revealed she had suffered a concussion in 2017, and things would become blurry whenever her head struck against anything. She said the salt capsules did not help her much in Tokyo, where she was "all alone".
Before the start of the Tokyo Olympics, Vinesh had taken on the IOA and the wrestling federation after she was not allowed to have a physio with her during the games. A newspaper article claimed she had made a last-minute request for her physio's accreditation, which she shared and clearly stated that the request had been made much earlier.
"I was reducing weight. I was my own physio and I was the wrestler. I was assigned a physio from the shooting team. She did not understand my body. My sport has very specific demands. She couldn't help me with what my regular physio used to. Last day, when I am reducing weight, am I supposed to explain things to her on how things are done in wrestling, or focus on myself? It's unfair on both of us," she wrote.
Vinesh went into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as one of India's medal favourites but was defeated in the quarter-finals. She said she wasn't "getting the feel" on the day of her first bout, had not eaten the day before and was anxious.
"I woke up with a feeling of vomiting but I could not. I was in pain. There was nothing in my body. Ultimately I did vomit. On the bus ride to the stadium, I called Purnima (my physio) asking her desperately what I could do," she said.
Vinesh said she took two salt capsules after her first bout but even they did not help. She struggled to eat anything as she was nauseous and felt like vomiting. "I did some breathing exercises but to no effect. I was not feeling in control. I was shivering," she wrote.
Earlier, the Wrestling Federation of India had suspended Vinesh and barred her from all wrestling activities.
“This is gross indiscipline. She can’t compete in any national or other domestic event until she files a reply and WFI takes a final decision,” a WFI source was quoted as saying by PTI.
The federation has reportedly given Vinesh till 16 August to reply to their notice where she has been reprimanded on three counts.