Sakshi Malik: 10 things to know about India's female wrestling star who made history at Rio
Being in the 58kg category, Indian female wrestler Sakshi Malik always had a different challenge. After establishing herself as a bright talent in juniors, she had to play second fiddle to her more famous compatriot Geeta Phogat for much of her senior career.
2016 proved to be the turning point that she so desired. She fully emerged from the elder Phogat sisters’ shadows and came into her own. She not only beat the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist in an Olympic qualifying trial but even went ahead and bagged an Olympic quota place herself, finally culminating in her historic bronze medal run.
Here are 10 things you should know about the Rio grappler:
1. Sakshi Malik was born on September 3, 1992 in the Mokhra village of Rohtak district in Haryana. Her father Sukhbir Malik holds a job with the Delhi Transport Corporation while her mother Sudesh is a government employee.
2. The young Malik got interested in wrestling when she was 12, and she began her journey in the sport when she joined her current coach Ishwar Dahiya’s akhara at the Chotu Ram stadium in 2004. She started honing her skills by training with boys initially.
“I started wrestling when I was 12. I always wanted to be different. There were very few girls, as a result of which I had to train with boys mostly,” Sakshi reminisced in an interview.
3. It was not easy as Dahiya had to constantly resist protests from locals who were against the training of girls. Things slowly changed and they became more accepting as the girls from the akhara started to shine in competitions. Sakshi herself faced a difficult situation of her own, trying to balance wrestling with studies. But constant support from her alma mater – the Vaish Public School and the Vaish Girls College – helped ease the pressure.
4. Her parents, despite not being associated with sports, fully backed their daughter and did everything possible to help her fulfill her dreams. From arranging for her coaching to taking care of her nutrition and diet, they ensured that their daughter got all the help that she needed.
5. Sakshi began flourishing quickly at the sub-junior and junior level and even claimed a bronze medal at the 2010 Junior World Championships in the 59kg category. Her first notable achievement in senior circuit was at the Dave Schultz International Wrestling Tournament in 2014 where she defeated American Jennifer Page, the Junior World bronze medallist to take the 60 kg gold.
“Words are not enough to describe how I felt standing on the podium. I literally got goosebumps after hearing the national anthem. I will never forget that day,” she has said about the win.
6. Her biggest accomplishment before Rio was at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland where she captured the silver medal in the 58kg category. After two good wins over Edwige Ngono Eyia of Cameroon and Braxton Rei Stone of Canada, she was beaten by Aminat Adeniyi of Nigeria 0-4 in the final and had to settle for the second place.
7. Malik followed that up with a bronze medal at the 2015 Senior Asian Wrestling Championships in the 60kg in Doha nine months later. Sakshi won two of the stipulated five rounds to take the bronze. Personally, she rates her Commonwealth medal win as her favourite performance.
“My silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games is my personal favourite. Although I displayed some aggressive wrestling at the 2015 Asian Championships and clinched a bronze, my bout at Glasgow was more challenging.”
8. She took the biggest step towards fulfilling her dreams of winning an Olympic medal when she sealed a Rio berth at the 2nd World Qualification tournament at Istanbul, Turkey in May. Sakshi bagged a silver medal in the 58kg class that ensured her place in the mega quadrennial Games.
“Qualifying for the Olympics is a big leap towards realising my dream and I will try my best to win an Olympic medal for the country,” she promised.
9. She boosted her confidence further by grabbing a bronze medal in 60kg at the Spanish Grand Prix in July.
10. The grappler is supported by JSW Sports under their Sports Excellence Programme.