How Pooja Dhanda’s bronze is equivalent to Bajrang Punia’s silver?

Bajrang Punia’s recent silver medal at the World Championship is definitely high up there but here’s a look at how Pooja Dhanda’s Bronze is also as much as important and arguably equate to Bajrang’s Silver. Let us decode the draw and the competition Pooja Dhanda faced at Budapest. 

Bajrang Punia’s recent feat of silver medal in world championship is still one of the rare achievements, despite the loss in finals. Considering only fourth Indian player ever to make finals of world championship & also to become first Indian to win multiple medal in world championship, Bajrang Punia’s silver medal is high up there, no disrespect towards the medal or Bajrang. But, the contest here is how Pooja Dhanda’s Bronze is important and also can arguably called equal to Bajrang’s Silver.

Pooja Dhanda is not an unknown name for sure, marked in history as first Indian to win youth Olympics medal at 2010 and a star wrestler in Pro Wrestling League. Pooja slowly created space for herself along Phogat sisters in the Indian wrestling circuit. Life is not an easy road for Pooja, suffering from a career threatening injury, which put her away from mat for more than two years.

The 2018 comes as a redemption. She slowly but steadily put herself back in the wrestling circuit in 2017 PWL and taking the momentum forward, she claimed podium in the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Losing the finals against Nigerian Odunayo Adekuoroye, two-time world championship medalist, Pooja Dhanda claimed silver medal. But, it’s a good progress for a player who wasn’t in the mat for two years. Though the year started well, she couldn’t carry the winning form at the Asian Games. She lost in semi-finals against North Korea’s Jong Myong Suk on technical superiority and also lost her Bronze medal play-off match against Japanese Sakagami Katsuki.

May be in many sport, a semi-finals appearance would have given her medal but it can be both curse and luck to have a repechage in wrestling. The frustration would have gone to a higher level, as soon as Pooja Dhanda saw her draw in world championship at Budapest that started on October 20.

Pooja Dhanda was placed in lower bracket. A draw of champions such as Rio Olympic and defending world champion Helen Maroulis, 2017 Worlds silver medallist in 55 kg Adekuoroye Odunayo, the best wrestler of the year China’s Rong Ningning, and grapplers from wrestling powerhouse such as Azerbaijan, North Korea and Russia.  Looking at draw one wouldn’t have predicted a medal for India in 57kg category.

Pooja Dhanda campaign in world championship started from qualification round, where she battled past Olga Khoroshavtse from Azerbaijan. The next one was against 2017 Worlds silver medalist Adekuoroye Odunayo in line, a wrestler who already defeated Pooja Dhanda in the finals of commonwealth games.

The bout was a thriller, Pooja defeated Odunayo by 7-6 in pre-quarters finding the winning move in dying minutes. Two down, but it only got tougher.  In Quarterfinals Dhanda faced Rong from China, current world no-1 in 57kg category. Though Pooja had an advantage of playing against her last year and also was up against her 8-0 in one stage (eventually she lost that bout by 8-12) but Chinese was even stronger this time and made sure to close the match without much tension. Though Pooja Dhanda’s world championship finals dream comes to an end in the hands of Rong, the hopes of repechage was high and as it was said she was pulled into repechage bracket as Rong made it to finals.

In repechage, she need to pass European Championship Bronze medalist Alyona Kolesnik of Azerbaijan in Round one and Thus, she makes a strong comeback from quarters loss to win the bout by 3-1. The win puts her in Bronze medal play-off match against Grace Bullen, a 2014 youth Olympics champion & also Gold medal at the Cadet World Championships & Senior European Championships.

The bout was important in many sense personally and also for the nation as Pooja was the last one to wrestle in women’s freestyle category. A category where all Indian knocked out when Pooja was about to start her bout. A four-point throw in each half of the six-minute bout put Pooja in a good position, but a 10-3 lead was still a nervy one with Pooja Dhanda earning caution for her behavior of stepping out of wrestling area twice, eventually she held on to the lead to win the most toughest medal of her life.

Undoubtedly this is a career-defying medal for Pooja Dhanda. 24 year old finally marked her presence in senior circuit after winning youth Olympics silver in 2010. A medal in world championship itself a remarkable achievement but coming through such a tough draw, the Bronze medal can be equally appreciated with Bajrang Punia’s silver medal at Budapest.

 


 

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Source: Matchday Frolics
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