BENGALURU: For someone who shot to fame by staging a dramatic recovery in the dying moments of a contest, ace wrestler Sakshi Malik is suffering from a peculiar problem. The Haryana girl, who overturned a 0-5 deficit in the last round to snatch the Olympic bronze medal in 2016, is losing close bouts.
The number of such setbacks is becoming a bit of a concern. In the second round of the 2018 Commonwealth Games where she was leading 4-0, Sakshi lost 8-11. In the Asian Games semifinals, she let a 7-6 advantage slip in the last five seconds to go down 7-8. Even in the repechage round of the World Championships in Budapest last October, Sakshi conceded a point in the last two seconds to end up on the losing end of a 3-2 scoreline.
The wrestler who fights in the 62kg category is feeling it. “The last-second defeats hurt. In some of them, I was just unlucky. In some, I made mistakes. I was not able to control the last 2-3 seconds the way I would like and lost focus. It has cost me crucial points and matches,” Sakshi told this newspaper.
While many athletes seek the help of sports psychologists and do meditation to improve concentration, the Khel Ratna awardee is banking on improving her skills to break this late jinx, under national coach Kuldeep Malik and father-in-law Satyawan Kadian, who is a former wrestler and Arjuna award winner. It’s important for her to get over this problem, since this is an Olympic qualification year and tournament results are going to count.
As a step towards that, Sakshi will be heading for Germany at the end of this month on a training-cum-exposure trip for a few weeks. “If I am winning a match, I have to work on my focus in the last few seconds. I have to control the game until the match is over. I don’t think I need to change anything or do anything out of the ordinary. The Germany camp will help me make those improvements and better my skills,” said the 26-year-old.
Sakshi has seen signs of improvement in the Pro Wrestling League, which got over on Thursday. Playing for Delhi Sultans, she won all her five matches, including two against European Championship bronze medallist Tatyana Omelchenko of Azerbaijan. Her aim now is to hit top gear at the Asian Championships in April. That will be a qualifying event for the World Championships in September, from which six grapplers in each category will qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“My target is to do better in the upcoming meets and not to repeat the mistakes that I made last year. I have started working on those at the PWL. There are many World Championships and Olympics medallists in the league and training with them helped a lot in preparing for the upcoming international events,” said Sakshi.