Sakshi keen to stand tall on the mat

Sakshi keen to stand tall on the mat

Gritty lady

Sakshi keen to stand tall on the mat

Sakshi Malik has been a quiet and consistent performer in the expanding landscape of Indian wrestling. However, in the microcosm of women wrestlers she is a determined force. Her qualification for the Rio Olympics in the 58kg evoked interest, and she cannot wait to make the most of it. An Olympic medal, she reckons, is important to carve her own identity.

For the longest time, the 58kg category has been dominated by trailblazing Geeta Phogat. She was the first Indian woman to qualify for Olympics in London.

 However, she had her struggles with injuries post London Games and her absence saw young Sakshi soar on the domestic circuit. When Geeta returned, Sakshi was already a strong contender and beat the veteran Geeta in the trials and later in pro-wrestling league.

The  23-year-old bagged a silver medal in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and a bronze in 60kg in 2015 Senior Asia Championships in Doha.  

The suspension of Geeta for missing a bout in the Olympic qualifying event in Mongolia gave Sakshi the last minute entry in the second and last qualifying event in Istanbul. The youngster, who till then had been under the shadow of Geeta, wrestled her way out of it to bag the quota place and a silver. 

“When I started wrestling, I didn’t know what Olympics was. I was 12 when I began but as I started to win events, and saw the pictures of wrestlers like Sushil Kumar, winning medals, I was spurred. Today wrestling is my passion,” Sakshi, who hails from Rohtak in Haryana, told Deccan Herald.

“People say the toughest part in an Olympic journey is to qualify. It was great feeling that I could do that. It gave me a lot of confidence.”

Yet Geeta remains an inspiration for Sakshi. “I have learnt a lot from Geeta.  Her gold medal in 2010 Commonwealth Games was a big inspiration. I have partnered with her during the training and picked a lot of tips,” said Sakshi, who is backed by JSW.

“When I took up wrestling, people at  times were discouraging. Though my parents too used to worry seeing my swollen ears, they always supported me. An Olympic medal can go a long way in inspiring young girls.”

Sakshi is leaving no stone unturned in her efforts. “Asian countries, in particular, provide tough competition. Attack comes naturally to me and I am working on my power and speed. I will be testing my preparedness during the Spanish Grand Prix (July 9-10).”

Asked if she is nervous, Sakshi replied: “Well, I am excited more. The whole country’s eyes will be on you and if I could win a medal....” she trails off dreamily.

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