Antim Guides Indian Women to Victory in U-20 Wrestling World Team Championship

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-Source: Indian Express

As far as performances go, they were as contrasting as they come: one, a defensive master class combined with incredible agility and tactical awareness; the other, an ultra-attacking show that was wrapped up within four minutes. Both, though, yielded similar results: a gold medal for Antim Panghal and Savita Dalal.

Amidst endless gloom, a non-existent federation and sexual harassment allegations against its former head that pushed the sport into a crisis, the women wrestlers conjured India’s best-ever performance at the Junior World Championships in Amman.

Shorn of practice, camps and competition, the under-20 wrestlers won medals in seven out of 10 weight classes, including three gold, one silver and three bronze, to finish ahead of women’s wrestling powerhouse Japan and the USA in the overall tally.

The headline act came from Antim Panghal: a wrestler who until a fortnight ago was knocking on the doors of the High Court, the sports ministry and the Indian Olympic Association. The first Indian to win two Under-20 World Championship titles wasn’t even sure she’d compete in Amman. She went only because the dates for the selection trials for next month’s Senior World Championship were not formalized

Not willing to miss an opportunity to participate in an international competition – a rarity this year because of the federation being disbanded following the allegations of sexual harassment against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh by six women wrestlers – Antim travelled to Jordan’s capital city. And she didn’t have to sweat a lot en route to the top of the podium in the 53kg category

She wrapped up her first bout, against Poland’s Nikola Wisniewska, in just over a minute, then swept aside China’s Xuejing Liang in technical superiority (i.e., winning by a margin of 10 points), blanked Russia’s Polina Lukina in a one-sided semifinal, before beating Ukraine’s Mariia Yefremova 4-0 in the gold medal bout.Indian wrestling’s most promising young wrestler stamped her authority, winning 38 points in her four bouts and conceding just two.But for Antim, the real challenges lie ahead.

After the IOA-appointed ad-hoc committee gave World Championship medallist Vinesh Phogat – who also competes in the 53kg class – an exemption from competing in the Asian Games trials, Antim dragged the administrators to court challenging the decision

She lost the bout in the courtroom but after Vinesh, the reigning Asian Games gold medallist, withdrew from the Hangzhou Games following a knee surgery, Antim finds herself in a unique position where she’ll have to compete in three tournaments in the next six weeks.

Immediately after returning from Amman, the wrestler will have to travel to Patiala for the selection trials for the World Championships, which begin on September 16. Given how easily she prevailed in the trials for the Asian Games, it’ll be a massive surprise if Antim isn’t on the flight to Belgrade next month. And from there, she’ll have to fly straight to Hangzhou for the Asian Games.

Back-to-back competitions in such a short period mean Antim will have to manage her weight carefully and ensure she remains healthy. While the wrestlers are likely to be given a weight allowance of 2kgs for the selection trials, meaning they can weigh maximum 2kg more than the prescribed limit in the weight category, there won’t be any such leniency at the two major events. This means Antim will have to either cut her weight twice in such a short period or maintain it, which is a tricky task for a wrestler

Featured Image: Babushahi.com

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