Female wrestler Vinesh Phogat has become the first Indian athlete to be nominated for the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards, and will compete with other global athletes under the “Laureus World Sporting Comeback” category in February this year.
Vinesh Phogat, the 24-year-old wrestler hailing from Haryana gained attention when she made her way to the quarterfinals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; but due to a dislocated knee injury, Phogat was forced to end the tournament. Although this was seen as a “virtual death sentence for her career”, but Vinesh worked on her fitness for two years steadily and made a powerful comeback with a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games in 2018, which was followed by a victory at the Madrid Grand Prix.
Furthermore, she reclaimed her performance on international wrestling platform with a silver in the 2018 Asian Championships in Bishkek and a gold at the Asian Games in Jakarta. The stellar comeback in 2018 led Vinesh to become the first Indian athlete to be nominated for the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards 2019. She will now be competing for the award under the “Laureus World Sporting Comeback” category against international athletes like golf great Tiger Woods, Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris, American alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn, Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Manyu, and Dutch para-snowboarding star Bibian Mentel-Spee.
This is the first time in history that an Indian individual athlete has received nomination for the award; and the last time the Indian flag was seen in list of Laureus Awards was back in 2014 for the Indian cricket team as a whole. Ultimately, the Indian cricket team and Pakistan cricket team shared the Laureus Sport for Good Award for playing an international cricket match in the times of political tensions between the two countries.