CHENNAI: Sakshi Malik was the cynosure of all eyes when she became the first woman wrestler from the country to clinch an Olympic medal in the 2016 Rio Games. A 58kg bronze at the quadrennial event fetched her immediate rewards. Cash awards poured in from various quarters while the government conferred her with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the country’s highest sporting honour.
Fast forward to 2019. The Haryana wrestler is struggling for form. Since her historic feat, her career has seen a steady decline. She lost in the first round of the 62kg weight category at the World Championships failing to qualify for the Tokyo Games in September this year. The grappler was left in tears when the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) questioned her commitment soon after that debacle.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and Sakshi can vouch for it. She is trying to compete in every tournament irrespective of importance attached to it to hone her skills. The 27-year-old Olympian is ready to make her South Asian Games (SAG) debut even when almost all of her compatriots including Vinesh Phogat decided to skip the event and prepare for Tokyo.
“It doesn’t matter whether the tournament is big or small. If I can compete in nationals, then why not in the SAG. They (competitions) boost your confidence level. I don’t want to skip any events as each of them teach us something,” the wrestler, who will leave for Nepal on Wednesday, told this daily.
The grappler admitted it’s difficult to maintain the intensity especially in a long four-year Olympic cycle. “It’s not easy (maintain the same level) but I am working on my shortcomings to get ready and achieve Olympic glory again. Two qualifiers (one each in March and April) are remaining and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to qualify in the Asian Continental Qualification Tournament.”
She also highlighted the importance of a support system in an athlete’s life. “We win sometimes and lose sometimes, so we need constant support. WFI is supporting me and that is keeping me motivated. This support system keeps an athlete going.”
She might be taking uncharted paths at the moment but her eyes are firmly fixed on the sporting extravaganza, which made her toast of the nation. If everything goes as per plan, she might leave for high altitude training soon after the SAG in her quest to regain Olympic glory. “I will go to the USA for high altitude training along with my foreign coach. The dates are not decided yet but it will be soon after I return from Nepal. A few more training camps will follow but we haven’t finalised on them yet so I cannot confirm when and where.”