Back in 2004 when Ramniwas Panghal and Krishna Kumari were blessed with their fourth daughter, the couple named her Antim. This was as per the custom in some Haryana villages to name a daughter as Antim for not wanting to have another.
On Wednesday, when 18-year-old Antim Panghal won the girls’ 53kg freestyle title at the Khelo India Youth Games with a win over Kalyani Gadekar of Maharashtra, the wrestler would send pictures of the gold medal to her parents.
“Hum hamesha bhagwan se ladka hone ki prarthana karte the. Jab chauthi ladki paida hui toh humne iska naam Antim rakha ki yeh hamari akhri ladki ho (We always prayed to God to bless us with a male child. When Antim was born, we named her Antim in the hope that she will be our last daughter). But she has always been like a first child to us. Whenever she wins a medal, we only hope that it’s not her Antim medal and she keeps on winning with only an Olympic medal being her Antim medal someday,” an emotional Ram Niwas told.
While the couple was blessed with a boy years later, Ramniwas would always want Antim to opt for a sport. While the youngster would try wrestling at the local akhada in village Baghana near Hisar, the family decided to send Antim to the Baba Lal Das Wrestling Academy in Hisar. It also meant that the wrestler, along with her mother and two siblings, had to rent a house in Hisar. With her father owning a three- acre farm, the family would struggle paying the Rs 5,000 monthly rent. “Even though my parents named me Antim, they always supported me in my dream. To sustain expenses while one part of the family stayed in Hisar was tough for my father but he would borrow money from friends and relatives,” remembers Antim.
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The youngster would win the U-15 national title in 49kg in Patna in 2018 before winning the bronze medal in the U-15 Asian Wrestling Championship in Japan the same year. The next three years would see the Haryana wrestler winning the cadet U-17 national title at the Sub-Junior nationals in Cuttack in 2019 followed by a gold in the Cadet U-17 national title at Patna in 2020.
“When she first came to train, I was impressed by her speed on the mat as well the judgement to control the bout. Slowly, we would work on her side leg attacks as well as double leg attacks, which she is able to try even in difficult hold positions on the mat. Moves like Kalajung, Dhobhi Pachad, Lakadbagha and Nidal come naturally to her and with more practice, she aims to master them,” says her coach Vivek Sihag.
Last year, Antim won a bronze medal at the World Cadet Wrestling Championship in Budapest with a win over Tuba Demir of Turkey. This year has seen the youngster reaching the final of the Indian team’s selection trials for the Commonwealth Games, where she faced world bronze medallist and two-time CWG champion and Asian games champion Vinesh Phogat. With less than 20 seconds on the clock, Antim was leading the bout 3-0 before Vinesh made a comeback to turn the tables. The youngster won the trials for next month’s Asian U-20 Championship to be held in Bahrain weeks later.
“Her speed was something by which she surprised Vinesh in the trials before Vinesh was able to make a comeback. With time and more exposure, Antim will only get better and she knows that her time will come. We need to work on her defence against double leg attacks and also a bit of mat IQ against senior wrestlers,” says Sihag.
As for Antim, she knows it won’t be her last time against a senior wrestler like Vinesh. “I have seen Vinesh Didi’s bout closely and also sought tips from her post the bout. But on the mat, I consider myself as my role model and winning in 53 kg will only see me becoming good at it,” she says.
As for her name, she says: “Whether it’s a start or end, both are part of life. A lot of people ask me to get my name changed when they get to know its meaning. Par yahi meri pehchan hai and main wrestling se apni ek nayi pehchan banaungi (But then this is my identity and I will make a new identity through wrestling).”