Young wrestler Antim Panghal, who challenged stalwart Vinesh Phogat in the Asian Games trials, is determined to prove a point in the continental showpiece and the subsequent World Championships.
Panghal, who competes in 53kg in women’s freestyle event, challenged Vinesh after the latter was handed a direct entry into the Asian Games squad by the Indian Olympic Association-instituted ad-hoc committee, which is currently running the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI).
However, Vinesh withdrew from the Asian Games a few days back because of a knee injury for which she underwent a surgery in Mumbai, paving the way for Panghal’s inclusion in the Hangzhou-bound team.
“My joy was amplified when I learned that I’ve been selected for the Asian Games, as Vinesh di (Vinesh Phogat) had a knee injury, and I was on standby,” Panghal told reporters here on Sunday after returning from a phenomenal campaign at the U-20 Women’s Wrestling World Championships in Amman, Jordan.
“I’m overjoyed with this opportunity. Now, my focus shifts to preparing for the Asian Games and the Seniors World Championship trials.” The 19-year-old Panghal created history by becoming the first Indian woman wrestler to win back-to-back U-20 world titles, as she defended her 53kg crown.
“We secured the first position in the U-20 Women’s Wrestling World Championship. Just like the previous time, I clinched the gold medal once again. I’m truly elated about this achievement,” she said.
Coach Maha Singh Rao was delighted with the performance of his wards.
“We are really elated that for the first time we won the U-20 World Championship title, where Japan always dominated, but we proved ourselves as the best this time.
“We are really happy that even PM (Narendra) Modi and the Sports Ministry (headed by Anurag Thakur) tweeted to wish these kids. This is really a proud moment for us and I am sure these kids will clinch medals in 2024 and 2028 Olympics,” he said.
Savita, who won the gold medal in the 62 kg category, has set her eyes on next year’s Paris Olympics.
“I am really happy, it was really fun, it was a great journey, the bouts were tough, it was really tough with Japan. My next target is Olympics, and from next year, I will play in the seniors 62 kg category,” she said.
It’s the first time that India has finished as the top wrestling country in a tournament, winning seven out of 10 medals in the women’s events.
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