With barely three days left for the Rio Olympics 2016 to end, a country with over a billion population was getting desperate to just open its account. The performance of Indian athletes in Beijing Olympics 2008 (three medals) and London 2012 (six medals) had raised India’s hope of a better showing this time, but the Rio script was certainly not going that way. India was left staring perhaps at a disastrous Games with the grave danger of returning without winning even a single medal.
Call it ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’, India finally saw itself figuring in the medal tally. And this came from Wrestling. That too, from a woman called Sakshi Malik from Haryana. And the sweet triumph was reflected in her statement :”Meri 12 saal ki tapasya rang layi (My 12 years of hard work and sacrifice have paid off). Geeta didi, my senior, had qualified for the first time in London.”
“I never thought I would become the first woman wrestler from India to bag an Olympic medal. I hope the remaining wrestlers will also do well,” Sakshi said to media post a historic win.
Down 0-5 in the Bronze medal play-off at Rio 2016, her hopes were fading away until she created a sensational comeback and produced a stunning comeback to score a 8-5 win over Kyrgysztan’s Aisuluu Tynybekova in the women’s 58 kg freestyle category.
It is the fifth time that wrestlers have done the nation proud in the Olympics. In London 2012, Sushil Kumar bagged Silver in men’s freestyle 66 kg and Yogeshwar Dutt in freestyle 60 kg. Sushil had won Bronze at Beijing 2008. The first-ever medal in wrestling for India was achieved by K D Jadhav at Helsinki 1952, when he won a Bronze medal.
For Sakshi, the glory at Rio 2016 was not an easy path. She had proved her mettle in the past too at major international events. It was just a matter of time that bigger glory beckoned her. The 23-year-old from Haryana was silver medallist at 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Bronze winner at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, Bronze at 2015 Asian Wrestling championships in Doha.
The glory at Rio 2016 is a fitting reward for Sakshi, who began wrestling at the age of nine and had to face stiff opposition for taking up a sport meant strictly for boys. By her Rio show, she has effectively silenced her critics and done the nation proud.
After her win, India’s new wrestling poster woman from Rohtak, Sakshi, did not forget to mention that it is the likes of Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt who inspire and let up-coming wrestlers like her think big.