India’s Rio 2016 woes continued to accumulate on the 12th Day of the Olympics with successive losses across different disciplines, the latest one being Sakshi Malik’s ouster in the quarterfinals of women’s 58 kg freestyle wrestling. However, in a moment of late cheer for the country's fans, Sakshi has now become eligible for participation in the Repechage system, as her opponent managed to reach the final. That means the Indian still has a shot at winning the bronze medal.
Sakshi was coming off the back of consecutive hard-earned victories in the previous two rounds, first a 5-4 against Johanna Mattsson of Sweden in the qualifiers and then an impressive takedown to edge past Mariana Cherdivara Esanu of Moldova. The silver medallist from 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games took on Russia’s Valeria Koblova for a place in the semi-finals of her category, with high expectations on her shoulders.
As the referee got us underway at the Carioca Arena 2 in Rio de Janeiro, both the 23-year-olds started on the defensive, waiting for the other to make a wrong move. After the clock struck one minute, it was the Rohtak-born grappler who picked up the first passivity warning, which meant she had to gain an attacking score within 30 seconds to avoid conceding a penalty point.
Koblova held strong and denied the slightest of openings to her opponent, which saw her fetch one point. That is how things remained as they headed into the halfway interval.
For Sakshi, who had already bounced back from 3- and 4 point-gaps in her prior games at the venue, the target looked quite achievable as we braced for another comeback from the Haryana wrestler. And soon enough, she succeeded in tossing and turning the Russian out to the ringside, which put her in the driver’s seat with half of the 2nd period to go.
The following moments spelt heartbreak for India though, as the London 2012 semi-finalist Koblova executed a fine takedown on Sakshi, and went ahead to turn her on the mat once again before pinning down her left shoulder with her right arm tightly wrapped around her neck. That took her to a strong 7-2 scoreline which was looked unassailable for Sakshi to overcome in the last minute.
Sakshi's desperation efforts didn't yield fruit either as the Russian moved to 9-2, and eventually ran down the clock.
With this loss, Sakshi Malik has lost her shot at a gold or silver medal but she's still a contender for bronze after Koblova's semifinal victory. She will first play the winner of the match between Gerda Helga Luisa Niemesch and Orkhon Purevdorj. If Sakshi wins that bout, she will face off against Aisuluu Tynybekova for the bronze medal.
Sakshi's Repechage match will start at approximately 1.30 am IST on 18th August.Published 17 Aug 2016, 21:44 IST