Antim Panghal wins bronze at World Championships, seals Paris Olympics quota

ByAvishek Roy
Sep 21, 2023 11:38 PM IST

With her win, Antim broke the medal-less streak of the Indian team at this world championships

Antim Panghal gave a stellar performance to beat Emma Jonna Denise Malmgren of Sweden 16-6 in an intense, attacking bout to win a bronze medal and also a Paris Olympics quota place in the 53kg weight class for India at the World Championships in Belgrade on Thursday

Antim, however, could not celebrate with the India flag in her hand. (UWW)
Antim, however, could not celebrate with the India flag in her hand. (UWW)

Antim, a reigning two-time U20 world champion, fought brilliantly to counter Malmgren's attacks and rack up points. After many fast-paced exchanges, Antim and Malmgren were locked 6-6 in the first period.

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But the 19-year-old from India stepped up in the second period, skillfuly thwarting Malmgren's single-leg attacks and turning it into her advantage. In the end, Antim proved to be too strong for the 2021 world junior champion and two-time European champion Malmgren.

Antim, however, could not celebrate with the India flag in her hand. She will be standing on the podium as UWW (United World Wrestling) athlete as the Wrestling Federation of India stands suspended by the world body.

In the last two days, Antim has shown big heart. Her courageous display on the mat was a revelation in her maiden world championships. She fought four bouts fearlessly on Wednesday and just fell short of making it to the final when she lost to Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Vanesa Kaladzinskaya 5-4 in dying stages of the semi-final.

She had begun her campaign with the big upset of reigning world champion Dominique Parrish of USA with a come-from-behind victory. She then beat Poland's Roksana Marta Zasina by technical superiority and Natalia Malysheva (9-6) -- a Russian competing as a neutral athlete. However, her giant-killing spree was stopped short by Kaladzinskaya in a dramatic last-gasp counterattack.

On Thursday, Antim returned to the mat with fresh resolve. She was quick to open with a point, pushing her opponent out of the danger zone. Then came the big 4-point throw by Antim that took Malmgren by surprise and for a moment, it looked like the Indian, with a lead of 5-1, was going to cruise.

But Malmgren,21, started to get her act together. She scored two more points through a takedown. Continuing her attacking spree, she took Antim down and rolled her over for four points but the Indian did well to counter for a point. With scores level in the first period, it was everything to wrestle for in the second period.

It was here than Antim showed strong defence to counter Malmgren and swiftly switch to the offensive position to score. In one such move, she locked Malmgren's legs and turned her over for four points, taking a decisive 12-6 lead. With two more points in the final second, Antim proved her technical superiority to claim the win.

With her bronze, Antim broke the medal-less streak of the Indian team at this world championships, where the men's freestyle wrestlers disappointed. In the previous edition of world championships, seasoned Vinesh Phogat won her second bronze in the same weight category (53kg). Antim has been making waves as a junior and looked good to take Phogat's place. With the medal at the world championships Antim has announced her arrival on the big stage.

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