Antim Panghal blinked again tears of pleasure on the wrestling mat at Belgrade’s Stark Area on Thursday night time. She had simply brushed apart the problem of Sweden’s two-time European champion Jonna Malmgren, choosing up a 16-6 win by technical superiority within the bronze medal match of the ladies’s 53kg class on the Wrestling World Championships.
In doing so, Antim, who had celebrated her nineteenth birthday only a month in the past, grew to become the youngest Indian to win a medal on the World Championships. With the win, Antim, who earlier this yr grew to become the primary Indian to win a junior world title for the second time, additionally earned a quota for the Paris Olympics subsequent yr.
There have been fully totally different feelings only a day in the past. As she walked again from the competitors wrestling mat into the bowels of the stadium for the final time on Wednesday night time, Antim had been totally distraught.
She was bawling whilst Indian coaches and physios tried to console her. “ Koi nahi beta, aur probability milega (It’s okay baby, you’re going to get extra possibilities)” they mentioned vainly. The 19-year-old was having none of it. Competing within the semifinals of the ladies’s 53kg division on the Wrestling World championships, Antim had secured what had gave the impression to be a decisive takedown and was main 4-3 in opposition to Vanessa Kaladzinskaya, when the buzzer went off.
Kaladzinskaya turned the Indian to her again to take two factors for publicity and consequently a spot within the remaining with a 5-4 win. Whereas some felt the Indian had been arduous achieved by, Kaladzinskaya’s counter was a authentic one. That did little to assuage the frustration within the Indian camp.“It wasn’t even a last-second transfer. She (Kaladzinskaya) made it with 0.6 seconds on the clock. You may think about how disenchanted Antim was,” says Randhir Singh, coach of the Indian crew.
Likelihood to impress
The World Championships had been an important match for the 19-year-old. She was tipped to be the following massive factor in Indian wrestling after she grew to become the primary Indian lady to win a junior world title final yr. But, regardless of making historical past, she had remained firmly within the shadow of two-time World bronze medallist, Asian Video games champion and two-time Olympian Vinesh Phogat, who had overwhelmed her twice final yr.
It was that in depth physique of labor that gave Vinesh an computerized quota place to compete on the Asian Video games with out giving a trial this yr. Antim had gone to courtroom to protest that call however to no avail. When Vinesh needed to withdraw from the Asian Video games and the World Championships owing to a knee damage, it gave Antim an opportunity to lastly show herself.
“Antim had gone to the World championships pondering she would struggle for the gold. She wasn’t pondering of some other medal. She knew she needed to win gold for folks to imagine that she was the very best wrestler in India in her class. However it wasn’t meant to be,” says Vikas Bhardwaj who coaches Antim at Hisar Baba Lal Das Kushti Akhada.
She didn’t have the very best preparation within the build-up to the competitors. Only a day earlier than she left for Serbia, Antim suffered a fall whereas climbing a rope at her akhara. Whereas the 15-foot fall didn’t trigger any critical injury, Bhardwaj admits she was nonetheless bruised from the incident.
That didn’t present on the mat in Belgrade. Antim in high quality contact, opening her competitors with what was on paper an upset of 2022 World Champion Dominique Parrish, beating the American 3-2. Though Antim had overwhelmed the American final yr within the Tunisia rating collection, this was her first win over Parrish following the latters world title. The Indian adopted that up with a 10-0 disposal of Poland’s Roksana Zasina after which a tightly fought 4-3 win over Russian veteran Natalia Malysheva within the quarterfinals. Then got here the agonizing loss in opposition to Kaladzinskaya.
It was the second time Indian wrestling had been heartbroken by the Belarussian wrestler. Two years in the past, Kaladzinskaya had overwhelmed Vinesh Phogat within the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics en path to a bronze medal of her personal.
As soon as the tears stopped, Antim focussed on the duty at hand. “She was very disenchanted. However we tried to construct her confidence up. We mentioned there can be many massive matches in her profession sooner or later. She had misplaced within the semifinals, however she nonetheless had the possibility to return with a medal,” says Randhir Singh.
He says that Antim was fully focussed on her bronze medal bout. Despite the fact that the Indian had made the semifinal, there was no assure that she would return with a medal in opposition to Malmgren who made her method into the playoff by repechage. The Swede was a two-time European champion within the 53kg weight division and had earned the correct to compete in opposition to Antim after pinning three-time European Champion Stalvira Orshush.
Certainly, this was the second time in consecutive years that Malmgren would stand between an Indian and a world medal. Final yr, Malmgren got here on the flawed aspect of an 8-0 loss to Vinesh, who would create historical past by turning into the primary Indian lady to win a second World medal (she had gained her first bronze in 2019).
The Indian began strongly, getting a step out after which taking pictures low to seize Malmgren’s left leg and flip her over for a 5-0 lead inside a minute and 20 seconds of the primary spherical. The Swede got here storming again and really almost pinned Antim, scoring six straight factors earlier than the Indian acquired again one on a counter as the primary half ended with the rating 6-6.
Within the second half, it was all a technique in favour of Antim although. She scored off a counter to guide 8-6, then shot for her takedown and almost wrapped up a leg lace to go 12-6 up. With time operating out, Malmgren made determined assaults, which Antim would counter to attain a takedown after which an publicity to choose up the win by technical superiority simply because the whistle blew for the ultimate time.
Such is her potential that Antim’s win, as complete because it was, wasn’t the end result she can be glad with. “Earlier than the match, we had been solely pondering of the gold. That was what our coaching was for,” Bhardwaj says. That will imply a bout in opposition to Japan’s Akari Fujinami. Who gained her second world title in dominating style with a 10-0 superiority win over Antim’s vanquisher Kaladzinskaya.
However the Indian can have one other shot on the 19-year-old Japanese phenomenon. Having already competed in opposition to her as soon as earlier than (on the 2023 Asian Championships the place the Japanese gained 10-0 within the remaining), Antim will doubtless face up in opposition to Fujinami on the Asian Video games, in a few weeks, the place each have been entered within the Girls’s 53kg class. Whereas she has a World bronze, there’s no assured place for Antim simply but on the Paris Olympics – the quota she gained doesn’t belong to her however to the nation. But when Belgrade has given her motive to wipe her tears, Antim will wish to discover much more of a motive to smile in Hangzhou.