CHENNAI: Wrestler Antim Panghal on Thursday won her maiden Senior World Championships medal to earn a quota for the 2024 Paris Olympics. She defeated Emma Jonna Denise of Sweden on technical superiority (16-6) in the 53kg bronze medal bout to finish on the podium and also became the first Indian wrestler to secure a quota for the Paris Games.
Incidentally, Denise is the same wrestler, whom Vinesh defeated in the last edition of the Worlds to win her second bronze at the competition. "It's good news after yesterday's close loss against the Belarusian wrestler," Vikas Bhardwaj, Antim's childhood coach, told this daily.
Competing under the flag of the United World Wrestling (UWW) as the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has been suspended by the world body, Antim's exploits meant the quota would go to the Indian Olympic Association. The medal is also the country's first at the ongoing championships. The freestyle male wrestlers from the country returned empty-handed while their Greco-Roman counterparts also failed to impress on day one of their competitions in Belgrade, Serbia.
The last two months have turned out to be a mixed bag for the 19-year-old Haryana wrestler. In July, she won the Asian Games selection trials only to be made a stand-by for Vinesh Phogat by the ad-hoc committee running the sport in the country in the absence of the WFI. She moved the Delhi High Court but to no avail. An injury to Vinesh meant she found a place in the squad. She then went on to create history by defending her U-20 Worlds title before winning the senior Worlds trials.
Earlier on Wednesday, Antim had shocked reigning champion Dominique Olivia Parrish in the qualification round to start her campaign at the Senior Worlds with a bang. Antim was trailing 0-2 but made a comeback to edge past her famed rival 3-2. In the 1/8 round, she outclassed Roksana Marta Zasina of Poland on technical superiority to enter the quarterfinal.
The two-time U-20 Worlds gold medallist registered a 10-0 win over Zasina in less than two minutes. Next up was Russian wrestler Natalia Malysheva, who was competing as a neutral athlete. Antim raced to a 6-0 lead but the Russian grappler made a comeback to make it 6-6. Antim then earned three points on the counter-attacks to extend her lead to 9-6 and maintained it till the end of the second period. She, however. lost the semifinal against Vanesa Kaladzinskay of Belarus. The Belarusian, who had defeated Vinesh Phogat at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, won 5-4 to progress into the final.