Pooja Dhanda joined the likes of Geeta Phogat, Babita Kumari and Alka Tomar; becoming the fourth Indian woman to win a medal at the World Championships. The 24 years old from Haryana beat Grace Jacob Bhullen of Norway 10-7 in the play-off bout to win bronze in the 57kg category at the László Papp Sports Arena in Budapest, Hungary, on Thursday.The wrestler delivered one of the best performances of her career in the bronze-medal match against Grace as she executed a four-point throw in each of the two periods in the contest.Speaking to Mail Today after the match, Pooja said, “I am feeling really good. It’s a very proud moment for my country and I am the one who has got their pride and I am really very happy. I want to thank the federation, my coaches, my physios and my players for supporting me and making me strong.”Pooja had earlier erased a three-point deficit to win her repechage round 8-3 against Alyona Kolesnik from Azerbaijan. “We had seen in World Championship matches that she (Grace) has a strong upper body so the strategy was to keep my arms locked and not increase my wingspan. I went for the lower body and leg attack and got points.”I was a very lower ranked player in my pool as my pool had all the champions. But my coaches told me to concentrate on my wrestling and just go for it. Only sometime ago I had defeated Helen Maroulis, Olympic gold medallist, so my confidence was high.”advertisementThe draw she came through might first have worried her but now serves as inspiration for the road ahead. A day before her competition, Pooja was calculating the number of Olympic and World Championship medallists she may face the following day. After all, she had been pitted against some of the world’s top wrestlers in the 57 kg category in Budapest. It was a heart-stopping moment for her.She landed in the same pool as Rio Olympic and defending world champion Helen Maroulis, 2017 Worlds silver medallist in 55 kg, Adekuoroye Odunayo, the best wrestler of the year in China’s Rong Ningning, and grapplers from wrestling powerhouse such as Azerbaijan, North Korea and Russia.”When I saw the draw, I couldn’t gather my thoughts,” said Pooja. “What just happened? But then I looked at it again. Slowly, my mind began preparing for the bouts because you cannot do anything. I thought let’s go for it.””This bronze will really boost my confidence. I’ve won a medal from a very difficult pool. Now I think… if I could beat these wrestlers here, I can surely beat them at the Olympic qualifiers next year and then also at the 2020 Olympics,” she added.
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