Pooja Dhanda joined the elite Indian company of women grapplers after defeating Grace Bullen of Norway 10-7 in the 57kg Freestyle category to clinch the bronze medal at the World Championships in Budapest on Thursday. Also Read - Bajrang Punia Believes Coronavirus-forced Break Has Made it Challenging For Wrestlers Who Are Yet to Qualify For Tokyo Olympics
Before Pooja, only three Indian women grapplers Alka Tomar in 2006, Geeta Phogat and Babita Phogat in 2012 had won a bronze medal each at the World Championships tournament. Also Read - Heavyweights Sakshi Malik, Pooja Dhanda Stunned in Wrestling Trials
Pooja, who led 6-1 in the first period, had to go through some harrowing moments in the second period when the Norwegian launched an all-out attack which the Indian managed to stave off, despite giving away some passivity points and step-out points. Also Read - Olympic Bronze Medallist Sakshi Malik Dropped from TOPS
In fact, what clinched the bronze play-off bout in Pooja’s favour was the four-pointer which zoomed her to an unassailable lead after the Indian got to Grace’s leg and rolled her for the vital clincher.
Earlier, Pooja had defeated Alyona Kolesnik of Azerbaijan 8-4 to reach the bronze medal bout.
Meanwhile, in the 50kg freestyle bronze medal play-off, India’s Ritu Phogat began with a promise only to fade away against the tight defence of Ukraine’s Oksana Livach.
The Ukrainian eventually bagged the bronze with a 10-5 win.
However, Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik failed to past the repechage round, losing 2-3, including a challenge point to Hungarian Marianna Sastin to bow out of the contest.
Earlier in the day, four of India’s Greco-Roman wrestlers got off to a poor start at the World Championships with all of them losing in the first round. Vijay (55kg), Gaurav Sharma (65kg), Kuldeep Malik (72kg) and Harpreet Singh (75kg) crashed out of after meek defeats.
Vijay, who is a World Junior bronze medal winner, lost 1-9 to Chinese Liguo Cao, while Gaurav went down to Poland’s Jacek Michal 3-7.
Then Kuldeep followed suit when Japanese Tomohiro Inoue defeated him 9-0 and finally Morocco’s Zied Ait Ouagram outclassed Harpreet Singh 15-4.