Budapest (Hungary), Oct 26: Pooja Dhanda became only the fourth Indian woman grappler and first in six years to win a medal at the World Championship, grabbing a bronze with a stunning 10-7 win over the 2017 European champion Grace Jacob Bullen, here on Thursday (October 25).
One of the two wrestlers in a medal contention, the 24-year-old Pooja executed a four-point throw in each of the two periods in the 57kg contest to deliver the best performance of her career. It is second big medal for Pooja this season, having won a silver the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.
Only Alka Tomar (2006), Geeta (2012) and Babita Phogat (2012) have won bronze medals for India at the Worlds before Pooja's memorable medal victory. It is India's second medal at the ongoing championship after Bajrang Punia's silver medal performance in the men's freestyle 65kg category.
"It's a proud feeling for me. I have done my country proud with this medal. I am very happy with this effort. In the beginning, I had a chance for a counter-attack and I got a good lead. I was confident that I will pull it off," said an elated Pooja Dhanda. Asked about her opponent, Pooja said she came prepared to tackle her.
"Bullen is strong with her upper body, I had seen her bouts, so my coaches planned that I block my arms and work on lower body. So attacked on the legs and got points," she explained her strategy.
Pooja said being in the brackets of world beaters made her job tough but having a win over Olympic and World champion Helen Maroulis at the start of the year, had boosted her confidence.
"I was in the lower bracket, which had Olympic and world champions. But I had beaten Olympic gold medallist (at Pro Wrestling League in January) , so my confidence was high," Pooja said she now wants to win an Olympic medal.
"My next target is Olympics. I feel very confident. I need to work on little things. I will come back to the mat with proper preparation."
Pooja opened up a 4-1 lead with a throw, which she found on the counter-attack. She consolidated it with a roll and took a 6-1 lead after the end of first period. After conceding a point for a step out, Pooja Stunned the Norwegian with another four-point throw, to zoom to a 10-2 lead.
Grace reduced the gap with a take down and a couple of push outs to put pressure on the Indian, who was cautioned twice. She somehow managed to avoid a third caution, holding off to lead. She had earlier erased a three-point deficit to win her repechage round 8-3 against Alyona Kolesnik from Azerbaijan.
Before Pooja's bout Ritu Phogat lost her bronze medal bouts and none of the four Greco Roman grapplers could win even a single match. Ritu had a chance to emulate her elder sisters -- Geeta and Babita -- to win a Worlds medal but she lost the 50kg bronze play-off 5-10 to Ukraine's Oksana Livach.
Coming from behind, she had beaten Romania's Emilia Alina Vuc in the repechage but the Ukrainian proved too strong for her. Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik yet again failed to reach the medal round at a big-ticket event, losing the repechage round 2-3 to Hungary's Marianna Sastin.
Sakshi had a 2-1 lead but failed to defend it for last seven seconds, playing too defensive. The Greco Roman competition began on Thursday but none of the four wrestlers could win a match. Vijay (55kg), Gaurav Shar,a (63kg), Kuldeep Malik (72kg) and Harpreet Singh (82kg) all crashed out after losing their Qualification rounds.