Becomes the first Indian woman wrestler to win a medal at the World Championship in 6 years
Ajmer Singh, the father of a relatively unknown wrestler, Pooja Dhanda, watched on nervously as his daughter fought it out against a much experienced Grace Jacob Bhullen of Norway at the World Wrestling Championship here in the Hungarian capital of Budapest.
However, by the end of the match, he was a relieved man. His daughter was successful in winning India’s first medal, a bronze, at this year’s world championship – An achievement many top wrestlers have failed to achieve.
Pooja was competing in the 57 kg bronze medal match. Her opponent, a seasoned wrestler and a 2014 Youth Olympic Champion, unsurprisingly started the match strongly.
It seemed as though the Norwegian was making amends for missing the final berth, as she put up multiple leg attacks. Dhanda was understandably nervous.
However, she was not only successful in parrying her opponent’s sudden outburst of attack, but she also managed to win a couple of points in counter-attacking. Pooja thus had 4-1 lead initially.
She improved upon her lead by winning two more straight points to make the score 6-1 in her favour. From then, with a comfortable 5 point cushion between
The score now became 10-2.
However, Bhullen was not going to let go of the contest so easily. She showed why she won the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, as she herself 6 points on the trot. But it was too late to have any impact on the result, as Pooja was more than able to restrict the onslaught. In the end, those 4 points that Pooja won in counter-attacks, made the difference between the two wrestlers. By full time, the score sheet read 10-7, as Pooja clinched India’s first women’s bronze medal at the current World Championships.
Before her, only three other Indian wrestlers have managed to achieve the feat – Alka Tomar in 2006, Geeta Phogat in 2012 and Babita Phogat in 2012.
A Successful Comeback
This has been a big season for the 24-year-old wrestler from Hisar. Earlier this year, she won a silver at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. The two medals she has won this year would be of big importance to her, as Pooja had suffered a serious ACL injury that kept her away from the sport for two years.
Overall, this was India’s second medal at the ongoing championship, with Bajrang Punia having won a silver medal in the men’s freestyle 65 kg category.