Antim under pressure ahead of Budapest ranking series - Hindustan Times

Antim under pressure ahead of Budapest ranking series

ByAvishek Roy, New Delhi
May 28, 2024 12:18 AM IST

The 53kg Olympic quota winner hasn’t competed in eight months and her rivals want WFI to hold trials in the division

All eyes will be on Antim Panghal when she steps on to the mat at the International Ranking Series in Budapest scheduled from June 6. It will be the 53kg wrestler’s first competition after eight months.

Wrestler Antim Panghal in action.(PTI)
Wrestler Antim Panghal in action.(PTI)

The world championships bronze medallist has not competed – in a domestic or international event – since last October when she won bronze at the Hangzhou Asian Games. She pulled out of the selection trials in March and the Asian Championships in April. With the Paris Olympics just two months away, Antim will be keen to address questions about her form and fitness in the Hungarian capital.

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With no national camp being held, top wrestlers are training at their respective bases. Since Antim, 20, has not competed for a long time and there was no information about her preparation, women’s team chief coach Virender Dahiya spoke to her last week.

“I just wanted to inquire about her preparation. She said she is fit and maintaining her weight. She said she will provide her weight before going to Budapest,” Dahiya said.

Indian wrestling has gone through a tumultuous period since early last year, and the Wrestling Federation of India’s (WFI) decision not to hold a final selection trials also has invited criticism.

Antim’s rivals have contacted WFI and demanded that trials should be held to assess her fitness. “There should be selection trials in 53kg. She has not competed for a long time and no one knows about her fitness. There are reports that she was injured,” the coach of a wrestler in her weight class said.

When contacted, Antim’s trainer Bhagat Singh said she is fully fit and looking forward to the ranking series.

Asked why she has not competed this year – two national championships were held in February – Singh said his ward was “preparing for the Paris Olympics”.

“Time is less for preparation. Antim anyway appeared in so many trials last year – for World Championships, Asian Games – and then won the berth,” he said.

The Hisar centre where Antim used to train shut in November and Singh said she has been training at the Sports Authority of India centre in the town. “I go along with her. She is fit and looking forward to the ranking series,” Singh said.

Antim was the first Indian wrestler to win an Olympic quota – the berth is for the country – at the world championships last September. The other four women – Vinesh Phogat, Anshu Malik, Nisha Dahiya and Reetika Hooda – and the lone men’s freestyle wrestler Aman Sehrawat won their berths recently. All participated in the selection trials before the Olympic qualifiers.

Except Vinesh, the other quota winners requested WFI to not hold selection trials. WFI’s selection committee decided to not hold trials and send the quota winners to Paris. However, the federation said “performance of all qualified wrestlers will be reviewed in the ranking series in Budapest.”

Former international wrestler and Railways coach Kripa Shankar Patel said: “Trials should have been held in each weight category because it is important to assess their current form and fitness. Ravi Dahiya (Tokyo silver medallist), Sarita Mor (worlds medallist), Shivanee Pawar, Anju all were preparing for the trials.”

Antim is likely to feel the pressure to prove her form and fitness in the ranking event.

Dahiya, Sarita seek Budapest entry

Ravi Dahiya, Sarita Mor, Asian Championships bronze medallist Shivanee Pawar are among those who have requested WFI to send their entries for the Budapest ranking series. With the selection trials for Paris cancelled, the wrestlers who had hoped to challenge the quota winners for an Olympic berth, are keen to prove their form in the international event. “Who knows, if they get to compete with the quota winners there or give a better performance,” said the coach of one of the wrestlers.

It is learnt that WFI told them their entries have been sent, but there has been no reply from the United World Wrestling (UWW).

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