On this day in 2016: Sakshi Malik- A feat to remember

sakshi malik

Rio Olympics was in its last week, India was yet to open an account. It was looking a case of so near yet so far. Freestyle wrestling was going to start and Indians had some sort of hope but nothing guaranteed. By the end of the day, Sakshi Malik had grabbed a bronze to open Indian account and gave millions of people something to cheer about.

Sakshi Malik was born on 03 Sep 1992 in Mokhra village of Rohtak district. She was motivated to take up wrestling because of her grandfather and started training for the same at the age of 12. Malik’s first success as a wrestler came in Junior world championships where she won a bronze medal in 58kg freestyle event. After this, she never looks back and continued her passion and dedication towards the game. She won medals at Asian championships, commonwealth championships, won a bar of silver at 2014 Commonwealth games.

To compete at Olympics in 58KG category Sakshi had a Geeta Phogat in the way. Building upto Rio 2016, it was Geeta who was supposed to be the flag bearer of women’s wrestling, but then she had to qualify for the event. During the qualification process, Geeta had some differences with Indian Wrestling Federation (IWF) sho would suspend Geeta and slot in Sakshi Malik for final Olympic qualifiers in Turkey. She defeated Zhang Lin in semifinals to book a ticket for Rio 2016. As saying is “someone’s pain is someone’s gain”  but credit to Sakshi for making the chance count. Rio games started and Sakshi was not even considered in medal bracket.

It was supposed to be learning exposure to her from where she would build her career. The big names did not give any medals and soon the prayers of the whole nation turned to Wrestling as it even in previous two editions we had got medals courtesy, Sushil Kumar & Yogeshwar Dutt. Having seen Vinesh Phogat stretchered out, Sakshi knew now all eyes would be on her as the nation would have pinned slim hope on her of getting a medal. She won her first two rounds from coming from behind and reached quarterfinals. She lost rather one-sided to Koblova of Russia. Now she was hoping for her opponent to reach the finals which would have given her a backdoor entry, in wrestling terms, we call it as repechage.

Kozlova reached finals and Sakshi had a lifeline. She knew this was her chance to win a medal and be the first Indian women wrestler to win a podium finish. She brushed aside her first opponent in no time and now faced then Asian champion Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan in bronze medal bout. Tynybekova was a technically gifted wrestler and soon raced to a 5 – 0 lead in the first round. It looked that the medal wait for Rio would extend further but Sakshi was not in a mood and produced one of the most epic comebacks considering what was a stake. She started targeting Tynybekova’s leg and brought the scores level at 5-5. Sakshi still knew this was not going to be enough as Tynybekova had the advantage of scoring a 4 point takedown early in the bout. With seconds remaining in match Sakshi came out with a freak move and won the bronze.

A move that stunned her and Tynybekova but expressions were different on both faces. Sakshi jumped with joy and so did the whole nation. She was hauled on the shoulders of coach Kuldeep Malik to celebrate the moment. She became a popular name and now a contender for 2020 Olympics. She has not been at her best but she is working hard and with Olympics postponed as well, gives her time to qualify and give her best shot.