India’s ace grappler Vinesh Phogat (53 kg) added a World Championships bronze medal on Wednesday in Nursultan, Kazhakstan as an icing to the cake after confirming her quota place for the Tokyo 2020 games earlier.
Earlier, Pooja Dhanda put herself one win away from her second medal at the World Championships after a defeat in the semi-finals.
In the bronze medal match, Phogat produced one moment of undoubted brilliance with a fall by pinning her Greek opponent Maria Prevolaraki to win her first world championship medal.
In her three World Championships before the ongoing one in Nursultan, her best finish was tenth.
After the first period, Maria led 1-0 with the passivity point given against the Indian. Prevolaraki also had a gash on her face and was bleeding. She wrestled with a bandage through the bout. She displayed solid defensive skills but the big move from Phogat proved to be too good.
After winning her repechage bout against world No 1 Sarah Hilderbrandt of USA in 53 kg category, Phogat booked her spot in the bronze medal bout. More importantly, she also earned India a quota spot for the Tokyo Olympics in the weight category.
Phogat is also the first woman wrestler from India to qualify for Tokyo 2020 and she did so after negotiating a horror draw on paper.
Here is what Vinesh said after the bout:
Vinesh Phogat is only the fifth Indian woman wrestler to win a Worlds medal after Alka Tomar (2006), Geeta Phogat (2012), Babita Phogat (2012) and Pooja Dhanda (2018).
Adding to the elation of the Indian camp was a gritty show by Pooja in the 59kg, a non-Olympic category.
Pooja reached the semifinals with a remarkable come-from-behind 11-8 win over Japan’s Yuzuka Inagaki before losing the semifinal by technical superiority to Russia’s Liubov Ovcharova, the 2017 European champion.
She will now fight for her second bronze medal at the Worlds, having won one in 57kg at the 2018 Budapest edition.
Pooja can now become the first female wrestler and only second Indian to win two World medals. Only Bajrang Punia has achieved the feat. He won a bronze in 2013 and a silver in 2018.