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HomeAsian GamesAntim Panghal goes down in last-second turnaround in Wrestling Worlds semifinal, but...

Antim Panghal goes down in last-second turnaround in Wrestling Worlds semifinal, but still has chance for Olympic quota

7 seconds left: Antim trails by a point

5 seconds left: Antim leads by a point

0 seconds left: Antim loses by a point

Antim Panghal was dealt the ultimate heartbreak in her first-ever senior World Championships appearance where after defeating the likes of defending champion Dominique Parriah in her opening bout, the Hisar-born freestyle wrestler came second-best to Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Vanesa Kaladzinskaya at the literal last second in the 53kg semi-finals. Antim will now fight for the bronze medal and a Paris Olympics quota spot against Greece’s Maria Prevolaraki, who lost to Japan’s Akari Fujinami 10-0, on Thursday.

Panghal was trailing by three points with 40 seconds left in her semi-final bout. But the 19-year-old, who has won the U-20 World Championship twice, went to work against an opponent Indians are all too familiar with. Kaladzinskaya, a Belarusian athlete competing as a neutral athlete at these World Championships, had beaten Vinesh Phogat at the Tokyo Games on the way to a bronze medal and denied one of India’s greatest a chance of winning an Olympic medal.

Panghal’s first points against Kaladzinskaya came when a lunge to the latter’s lead leg paid dividends and the Belarusian’s stout defence withered as the Indian refused to let go of that hard-earned hold. She then slipped behind her opponent, caught her back and converted that position into two points.

And then, with a point separating the two, a frenzied few seconds gave the Indian hope before cruelly taking it away from her.

If the earlier takedown came from Panghal grabbing the lead leg, her second takedown was followed by a desperate lunge to Kaladzinskaya’s trailing leg, which with a lot of effort, she somehow managed to hold on to before transitioning onto her back.

But it was at this moment, when Panghal believed that she had earned herself a spot in the final, that it all came crashing down. Call it a lapse in concentration or how clutch Kaladzinskaya was in a desperate situation – the Belarusian lifted herself up slightly with Panghal on her back and then trapped Panghal’s left arm underneath her and turned. The momentum carried Kaladzinskaya on top and Antim on her side and in that moment, the Olympic medallist grabbed the Indian’s leg and managed to gain two points after a challenge was made from her corner.

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During the challenge, Panghal was sprawled on the mat praying that review went her way. But the referee brought both wrestlers to the centre of the mat and raised Kaladzinskaya’s hand. All Panghal could do was dissolve into tears as her chance of winning a gold medal slipped away in the blink of an eye.

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Panghal had earlier defeated defending champion Dominique Parrish of the United States, a wrestler she had beaten last year as well. She then defeated Poland’s Roksana Marta Zasina 10-0 and then took down Russian Natalia Malysheva 9-6 in the quarterfinals.

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She will now have to regroup for the bronze medal bout on Thursday and still has two chances to win a Paris Olympics quota. A bronze medal will guarantee a spot but in case Panghal loses that match, she will have the opportunity to face the loser of the bronze medal match in the other bracket for a quota berth, but not a medal.

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