Vinesh Phogat tests COVID positive, to miss National Sports Awards

Top wrestler Vinesh Phogat, who was conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, is self-isolating at her home in Haryana.

By Rahul Venkat

Rio 2016 Olympian Vinesh Phogat revealed on Friday that she had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

“Yes, I have tested positive for COVID-19 when my sample was taken in Sonepat before the dress rehearsal for the awards ceremony,” the 26-year-old Phogat told PTI.

“God willing, I will recover soon,” she hoped.

Vinesh Phogat is the second known awardee to have contracted the virus after Indian badminton doubles star Satwiksairaj Rankireddy.

The Sports Authority of India had earlier revealed that three athletes had tested positive for COVID-19 without releasing their names.

Vinesh Phogat, a Commonwealth Games and Asian Games gold-medallist, is now self-isolating at home in Sonepat, Haryana, where she had been training with her coach Om Prakash.

The Indian wrestler was conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, the country’s highest sporting honour.

Vinesh Phogat was set to receive the award from the President of India Ram Nath Kovind in a unique virtual ceremony on the occasion of ‘National Sports Day’ on Saturday. However, she will now no longer take part in the event.

Phogat had also pulled out of the wrestling national camp, which was due to be held in Lucknow, due to fears over contracting the virus.

The camp was subsequently postponed by the Sports Authority of India (SAI).

India’s premier Olympic medal hope

Vinesh Phogat had made her Summer Olympics debut at Rio 2016, but it was cruelly cut short after she twisted her right knee in the quarter-final bout against Sun Yanan.

The Indian wrestler though came back strongly from that heartbreak, winning her first World Championship medal in 2019, a bronze at Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan and booked a quota place at the Tokyo Olympics. 

In Tokyo, Vinesh Phogat has been widely tipped as one of the medal favourites again, including by Rio 2016 bronze-medallist Sakshi Malik.

The Indian wrestler had begun the year well, winning gold at the season-opening Matteo Pellicone Memorial in Rome, Italy and followed it up with a bronze in the Asian Championships at home in New Delhi.