Wrestler Sakshi Malik won every Indian’s heart after she brought India its first medal of the 2016 Summer Olympics. The whole nation celebrated her victory after she won bronze in the 58kg women’s wrestling with a spirited comeback over Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan.
Sakshi is the first Indian female wrestler and the fourth Indian woman to win an Olympic medal, but her journey to this podium wasn’t an easy one.
She was born in the state of Haryana, where women for a long time were not allowed to participate in wrestling. However, Sakshi decided to change that by becoming a wrestler in one of India’s most conservative states.
“I was criticised when I decided to opt for this sport, many even told my parents that I would become undesirable to various suitors, but my parents backed me all this while,” said Sakshi at a press conference held at JSW Centre, BKC, Mumbai.
This 24-year-old faced various hardships, but nothing stopped her from achieving what she always desired, and through all the struggle, she emerged a winner. After Sakshi won the bronze, the attitude of people changed not only towards her, but towards wrestling as a sport.
“It’s amazing to see how people’s perception has changed over time. When I started wrestling we were just 5-6 girls who use to practice, but now the proportion (sic) has increased beyond imagination. At present, we have many girls who want to practice and sadly, the space is less. Yet, the coach tries to accommodate each and every student as per the time table,” shares Sakshi.
It was in the mid 1990’s when women’s wrestling really took off in our country but it was only in 2002 that women were allowed to compete in the sport.
“People now come up to me with their kids and ask me to bless them. But honestly, I can’t bless people; all I can do is teach them wrestling, and they can work hard and put India on the global map,” said Sakshi.
Sakshi’s success is changing the course of things in Haryana, and we hope this change will create a better India. The wrestling star now is appointed as the Wrestling Director at the Rohtak university and will soon be tying the knot with 22-year-old fellow wrestler Satyawart Kadian.