In the recently concluded South Asian Games, India topped the medal tally with a stunning 312 medals (174 gold, 93 silver and 45 bronze), the wrestlers dominating the event by winning gold in all 12 categories. Of all, Sakshi Malik who had been away from the podium for a while has made a brilliant come back. The 27 year old wrestler clinched to the top of the podium with a 10-0 lead; by knocking all her opponents in the 62 kg freestyle category.
Sakshi came into limelight in 2016 after she became the first woman wrestler to win a bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Her victory at the Olympics gave a kick start to her sporting career. Hailing from a small town Mokhra in Rohtak district of Haryana; Sakshi has come a long way. She has not only brought laurels to her parents but a paradigm shift in the patriarchal state of Haryana. She has changed the perception that ‘sport is not for girls’ and is an idol for many aspiring female athletes in Haryana.
Sakshi acclaims that ‘There has been a visible change in the mindset of parents. They are now inspiring their daughters for training in wrestling; it has no longer remained a male dominated sport.’ The Haryana government has also taken steps to inculcate a sporting culture in the state by adopting the policy of ‘Catch them young’. The government is establishing Yogashalas, Vyayamshalas and small stadiums at village level, to encourage many more Sakshi’s and this is definitely a welcome step.
Sakshi got attracted to wrestling as a teenager as she watched her grandfather in the akhara. She started training at the age of 12 under her coach Ishwar Dahiya at a small akhara in the Chotu Ram stadium at Rohtak. The coach found tremendous potential in this little girl and left no stone unturned in training her.
Proving true to his belief, Sakshi started her International sporting career by winning bronze in the Junior World Championship 2010 in the women’s 58 kg freestyle. This was followed by gold at the Dave Schultz International Tournament in 2014 in the 60 kg category and silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. In 2015 she won bronze medal at the Asian Wrestling Championships in Doha.
She proved her mettle as the first female wrestler to have secured the Olympic victory and then on there was no looking back. In 2017 she won gold at the Common wealth games followed by a silver and bronze at the Asian Championships in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
For her incredible achievements, she has been awarded the highest sporting honour the Rajiv Gandhi Khel ratna award in 2016 and the Padmashri in 2017.
This lone female wrestler is now eyeing on securing a medal at the Tokyo Olympics 2020, to become the second athlete with two Olympic podium finishes after Sushil. The wrestler says that ‘although the last two years have not been great, the recent training camps in Spain and Italy have given me ample exposure and a chance to learn different styles and techniques’. She wishes to focus on her upcoming games and do her best.
Sakshi is also the face of the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padao” campaign and she truly deserves it.
We hope Sakshi will bring laurels to the country in the upcoming Summer Olympics.