CHENNAI: By then, wrestler Antim Panghal had already created history by winning India's first-ever gold medal at the 2022 U20 World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria. So when she reached Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh for the 2022 Senior National Championships in December, Antim was favourite to win the 53kg title on her debut at the event, especially with experienced Vinesh Phogat opting out.But destiny had something else in store for the Haryana grappler as she was overweight during the weigh-in. It forced her to miss her maiden nationals without even competing in a single bout.
Given her exploits in the U20 Worlds, she, however, got an opportunity to compete in the selection trials held in January to pick the team for the Asian Championships. Antim made the most of the opportunity as she outclassed her rivals to make it to the Indian squad. Antim, 19, on Wednesday, managed to erase the sad memories of the nationals to some extent by winning a silver medal at the continental championships going on in Astana, Kazakhstan. Indian women won medals in all five weight categories they competed in on Wednesday with others returning with a bronze each.
"That was unfortunate (2022 nationals) but she learnt her lessons. She missed her maiden nationals because she was 100 grams more than the prescribed weight," Vikas Bhardwaj, Antim's childhood coach from Baba Lal Das Kushti Academy, Hisar, told this daily.
Antim won her three bouts comfortably conceding just a point before running into formidable Japanese wrestler Akari Fujinami in the final. The reigning Asian champion and 2021 Worlds gold medallist Akari hardly lost a bout since making it to the senior category in 2020. The final against Antim also turned out to be a smooth ride for the 20-year-old as she won 10-0 by technical superiority. Coach Bhardwaj, however, is confident that his ward is ready for bigger battles, especially with her senior compatriot Vinesh Phogat.
"Gold would have been better but she is only 19 and this experience will help her grow as a wrestler. As far as contests with Vinesh are concerned, she gave a tough fight to her whenever they faced each other in the selection trials. This being the Olympic qualifying year, they will be up against each other again. We have been preparing for it and once she returns, we will start training for the contest," added the coach.
Meanwhile, Anshu Malik (57kg), Sonam Malik (62kg), Manisha (65kg) and Reetika (72kg) bagged a bronze medal each as the Indian women's team finished third behind Japan and China in the ranking chart. Overall, Indian women bagged two silver and five bronze in the competition. World Championships silver medallist Anshu had injured her left knee during her semifinal bout against Sae Nanjo of Japan. She lost the bout 5-1 but came back strongly against Mongolia's Erdenesuvd Bat Erdene to win the bronze medal playoff 10-0 by technical superiority.
"Finishing third behind only Japan and China is a good result. We lost a few medals but overall the performance is satisfactory," said the women's team coach Virender Singh Dahiya.