Powerful Panghal wins World bronze and quota for Paris Olympics

PTI, Sep 22, 2023, 8:26 AM IST

source: PTI / File

Belgrade: Young Indian wrestler Antim Panghal’s superb campaign at the World Championships culminated with a bronze medal, a performance that also earned the country a 53kg quota for the Paris Olympics.

The 19-year-old Panghal became only the sixth Indian woman to win a bronze medal at the Worlds with her victory over Sweden’s Emma Jonna Denise Malmgren, the two-time European champion.

The high-scoring bout (16-6) ended with a technical superiority win for the Indian, who became the first Indian wrestler — male or female — to lock a quota for the next year’s Games.

The wrestler from Haryana seems to be making a smooth transition from junior to senior circuit, having made an impression in the trials for the Asian Games and World Championships.

Panghal is rising in a category that Vinesh Phogat has made her own on the back of her stupendous show in the last few years.

Phogat, who is a two-time World medallist is recuperating from a knee surgery and it remains to be seen if the 53kg quota remains with Panghal.

As of today, the quota belongs to IOA. Panghal had challenged Phogat’s direct entry for the Asian Games, saying she is capable of beating the veteran Indian.

Panghal has certainly made a huge statement by winning the bronze after narrowly missing out on the gold medal bout.

Panghal raced to a 5-0 lead after beginning with a quick push-out point. Malmgren fought with a take-down move and had the Indian in her grip but somehow the Indian wriggled out.

A successful double-leg attack from the Swede reduced the deficit further and another two-pointer meant that Malmgren had grabbed slender 6-5 lead with six straight points.

Just before the end of the first period, Panghal earned a point on counter-attack to make it 6-6.

The second period belonged to Panghal as the two-time U20 champion pulled off move after move to consolidate her lead. The Swede resisted hard but the powerful Panghal employed leg-lace to quickly widen the gap and eventually won the bout by technical superiority.

With Panghal’s bronze medal win, Indian women’s campaign closed in the Championships. This is the only medal India has won so far.

The Indians are competing under the UWW flag since national federation WFI is suspended for not conducting elections on time.

Geeta Phogat (2012), Babita Phogat (2012), Pooja Dhanda (2018), Vinesh Phogat (2019, 2022) and Anshu Malik (silver) have won medals at the World Championships for India before.

Early during the day, Indian Greco Roman grappler Sajan Bhanwala lost in the opening round to a technically far superior opponent from South Korea.

The 82kg wrestler was no match for Yang Sejin, losing 1-3 and getting eliminated from the tournament against an opponent ranked one place lower than the Indian at No.18 in the world.

Indians have had a torrid time at the Worlds with only Abhimanyu (70kg) making it to the bronze-medal round in men’s free-style. He had lost to Arman Andreasyan of Armenia.

Gurpreet Singh, the 77kg grappler, after getting a direct entry into the pre-quarterfinal lost his bout to world No.1 Levai Zoltan of Hungary in just one minute 12 seconds.

Zoltan, the 2022 World Championships silver medalist in Belgrade last year, achieved a victory by fall.

However, Gurpreet can still make it to the bronze medal round through the repechage route if Zoltan goes all the way to the final.

Mehar Singh, the 130kg greco-roman wrestler, too lost in the qualification round to be eliminated from the competition.

The 27th seeded Indian lost to 28th ranked David Ovasapyan of Armenia on technical points 0-8 in just 39 seconds.

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