Rio De Janeiro: After ending India’s agonising wait for an Olympic medal at the Rio Games with a bronze medal, Indian women wrestler Sakshi Malik said it was the result of her 12 years of persistent hard work.
Sakshi scripted history by becoming the first woman wrestler from India to bag an Olympic medal and only fourth female athlete from the country to climb to the podium at the biggest sporting event.
“Meri 12 saal ki tapasya rang layi (It’s the result of my 12 years’ fight for day and night). Geeta didi, my senior had qualified for the first time in London,” Sakshi said, with tears of joy in her eyes.
“I never thought I would become the first woman wrestler from India to bag an Olympic medal in wrestling. I hope the remaining wrestlers will also do well,” Sakshi said.
The 23-year-old from Haryana, a silver medallist at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and bronze winner at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, earned a dramatic come-from-behind 8-5 win over Kyrgysztan’s Aisuluu Tynybekova in the bronze medal play-off.
“It’s in the women’s section, we have got the first medal for India,” said an ecstatic WFI president Brij Bhushan even as he hugged her in joy.
Following Sakshi’s bronze-medal win, Haryana Govt announced Rs 2.5 crore & a Govt job for the wrestler.
Sakshi earned the dramatic win after falling behind 0-5 following the first period in the do-or-die bout. The Indian turned the tables on the Kyrgyzstan wrestler in the dying se conds of the bout as Tynybekova was in complete command inmost part of the clash.
On her defensive approach that saw her trailing 0-5, Sakshi said: “I never gave up till last, I knew I would win if I lasted till six minutes. In last round, I had to give my maximum, I had the self belief.”
Sakshi had lost 2-9 in the quarter-finals to Russia’s Valeriia Koblova in the fifth bout of the day before getting a second chance in repechage when her conqueror reached thefinal.
“It was an agonising two-three hours wait for me. Congratulations to my country mates, I could live up to their reputation,” she said.
Like in three of the four other bouts earlier in the day, Sakshi won the crucial bout after coming from behind. In fact, Sakshi’s winning move that got her two points initially was challenged by her Kyrgyztan rival and it was reviewed and she was awarded an extra point by the judges much to her rival’s chagrin.
President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Sakshi Malik for her historic feat.
“Hearty Congratulations to #SakshiMalik for winning a medal in women’s wrestling in #Rio2016 and doing India proud,” President Mukherjee said in his official Twitter handle.
Modi described Sakshi’s bronze winning performance as a gift to the country on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan and said her feat will inspire the country’s sportspersons. “On this very auspicious day of Raksha Bandhan, Sakshi Malik, a daughter of India, wins a Bronze & makes all of us very proud,” Modi said in a tweet.
“Sakshi Malik will inspire several sportspersons in the years to come,” he said in another tweet.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley applauded Sakshi for her historic feat. “Congrats #SakshiMalik on winning #wrestling bronze at the #Rio2016. She has created history & made the country proud.”
Sports Minister Vijay Goel also congratulated Sakshi on her winning the bronze. “Congratulations to Sakshi Malik!!!.Wins First #Olympics #Bronze Medal for #IND,” Goel tweeted.
“Witnessed Thrilling Match of #wrestling in which Sakshi overcame 5-0 deficit in First Half to win the bout 8-5 in the end,” he added.
Congratulating Sakshi, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore said the country was proud of her. “Congrats #SakshiMalik for the #Bronze @ #Rio2016 . #IND’s daughter, we are proud of you.. Well done??.”
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also tweeted: “Congratulations Sakshi Malik. U have made the whole nation proud.”
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar also congratulated grappler Sakshi Malik for the feat. “Sakshi Malik has done Haryana and the country proud by opening India’s account in the medals tally in the Olympics at Rio in Brazil. I congratulate her and members of her family on her achievement. The way she came from behind to win Bronze at Rio shows her class, grit and determination,” the Chief Minister said in a statement.
Weightlifter Karnam Malleshwari (2000, Sydney), boxer MC Mary Kom (2012, London) and shuttler Saina Nehwal (2012, London) were the only other women players from India to have won a medal in Olympics.
This was India’s fifth medal in wrestling where Sushil Kumar has the distinction of winning a silver in London 2012.
Sakshi, who qualified through second Olympic Games World Qualifying Tournament in Istanbul, battled social biases and sexism to learn wrestling. She took up the sport when she was just nine years old.