Gandhinagar: Believe it or not, but reigning World Under-20 champion Antim Panghal (Haryana) was rewarded with a princely Rs 500 and a blessing for clinching the Women’s 53kg Wrestling title at the 36th National Games here on Sunday.

The 18-year-old was recovering her breath after successfully executing her gameplan of attacking Madhya Pradesh’s Priyanshi Prajapati from the word go, looking for a quick fall, when an oldish gentleman accosted her and handed her a Rs 500 note.

“I have been chasing you since I watched your Under-20 World Championship performance,” he said in Haryanvi. “Please accept this and keep flying high.”

A bemused Antim Panghal turned towards her coach Vikash Bharadwaj and he nodded his head, asking her to accept it as a blessing.

Later, the coach explained that they had devised the strategy to go for a fall in the final “as Priyanshi was from the 50kg category while Antim was already in 53kg, giving her a massive edge.”

“Also, Antim is very meticulous in her preparation and likes to watch videos of her opponents before every bout. It is of course not easy to get footage of domestic wrestlers but she was prepared for this one,” coach Vikash revealed in an interaction with EastMojo.

Giving details of Antim’s emergence, the coach pointed out that she had joined the Babba Lal Das Wrestling Academy in 2016, as a 12-year-old. One of her four elder sisters, a kabaddi player, had spotted a wrestling academy in the remote Baghana village of Hisar and encouraged her to give it a shot. It wasn’t difficult to persuade their farmer father.

“She was 12 when she joined our academy. She was a perfect fit for wrestling. She had the right physique and temperament but what actually made her stand out was her passion for the sport. She would train for hours without a single complaint. In fact, we had to coax her to stop and take rest,” he laughed.

Her loss in the Commonwealth Games qualifiers to eventual gold medallist Vinesh Phogat left young Antim dejected. But she quickly regrouped and came to Gujarat, determined to win. She opened up a 5-0 lead early on before executing the fall to take the gold medal.

“Isko bas medal ki bhookh hai…(she is only hungry for medals). After the loss to Vinesh in the qualifiers, she took it as a challenge to win big in her next competition. The National Games was great exposure for her. We worked on a few technical flaws which we had noticed in the bout against Vinesh,” he said.

Gujarat’s Khalifa Hina and Maharashtra’s Swati Sanjay grabbed the bronze medals on offer in the category.

In other categories, seasoned Maharashtra grappler Narsingh Pancham Yadav had to settle for the bronze in the Men’s Freestyle 74kg division. Delhi’s Yash took the gold after getting the better of Haryana’s Sagar Jaglan in the final.

In Men’s 86kg, Uttar Pradesh’s Joint Kumar took the gold after defeating second-seeded Vetal Audamb of Maharashtra. In the Women’s 57kg category, Haryana’s Mansi registered a thumping win over Chandigarh’s Neetu by fall to pocket the yellow metal. Preety Kumar of Rajasthan and Somali Kondi of Maharashtra took the bronze medals after winning their respective ties.

In Greco Roman, Gyanender of the Services took the gold medal while Haryana’s Vikas took home the silver in the 60kg category, while in the 130kg class, Haryana’s Satish bagged the gold after Services’ Naveen skipped the final due to an injury. Gursewak Singh of Punjab and Yatendra of Uttar Pradesh bagged the bronze medals in the category.

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