Asian Games: Why Mt Fuji is the obstacle to Antim and Vinesh's bid for true greatness

Akari Fujinami (red) in action against Antim Panghal (blue) during the women's 53kg freestyle wrestling quarterfinal at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Akari Fujinami has Antim Panghal in a chokehold. Look at her, though, and she might as well have been lying down with a pillow in her arms. There is no strain on her face, no tension in her biceps. There are no veins popping on the forearm and her legs are not braced visibly to generate power. She's just lying there, and Antim can do nothing about it but stare at the ceiling, helpless in Fujinami's arms, waiting for the referee to call it a match.

In a picture, this was the most dominant athlete at the Asian Games showing Hangzhou how easy all this is for her. The ref called it soon because nothing was going to move Fujinami. 6-0, win by fall. A six-minute bout ended in 1 minute 55 seconds.

Antim is a very good wrestler: a two-time junior world champion who won silver at 2023 World Championships. She beat out a tough field domestically to earn the right to represent India at the Asiad. And yet...

That Worlds silver had also come after a hapless loss to Fujinami and, just like that bout, there was practically nothing she could do on Thursday. She was flipped once, shoved out of the mat once, and put in that chokehold. There was no defence to any of these moves, no getting out of them once the move was set in motion. Fujinami willed it, Fujinami did it.

Antim is a very good wrestler, but Fujinami is in a different league. This was her 128th win in succession. Half an hour later, she would beat the reigning Olympic bronze medalist in 2 minutes and five seconds to make it 129. She's never lost a senior bout in her life. She's rarely even been pushed the distance. World champion and double Asian Champion, she's now one fight away from Asian Games gold on debut. And she's only 19.

Japan has seen a long line of women's wrestling legends -- Saori Yoshida (3 Olympic golds, 4 Asiad golds and 13 Worlds golds), Risako Kawai (2 Olympic golds and 3 Worlds golds), Yayoi Urano (six Worlds golds in a row) and Shoko Yoshimura (5 Worlds golds).

None of that really mattered to India, because there were no Indian women wrestlers in that competitive frame. Now, though, there's a problem. The category Fujinami competes in, either the 50kg or the 53kg, is one of India's strongest at the moment. Vinesh Phogat has won an Asian Games gold and multiple world championship medals in it. And now there's Antim. Vinesh vs Antim has a lot of promise written over it, one truly great wrestler pushing a young super talent to greater heights (and vice-versa).

At the end of the day, though, they'll still have to scale Mt. Fuji.

Neither Vinesh nor Antim are shrinking violets, and they will give it their all come Paris, come the next Worlds and they will keep at it tournament after tournament, but there's only so much they can do. Sport lends itself to miracles by its very nature, and that's what makes it one of mankind's greatest loves; but sometimes you witness something that makes you truly understand the meaning of the world inevitable. Look at that picture again. Right now, that word means just one thing -- Akari Fujinami.