India has been swept into a fervour after claiming its first medal at the Rio Olympics. Sakshi Malik, 23 from Haryana, won bronze in the 58kg women’s wrestling category against Krygyzstan’s Aisuluu Tynybekova. It was a gruelling match.
Aisuluu dominated to begin with, gaining a 0-5 lead until Sakshi began to bite back and clinch the victory in the very last few minutes of the match, winning 8-5.
Sakshi is the first Indian woman wrestler to win a medal and the fourth Indian women in history to win a medal.
The young athete told The Hindu “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 her Olympic win was the “result of 12 years of dedication.” She added “I never gave up to the end. In the last round, I had to give my maximum, I had the self-belief.”
Sakshi first began playing the sport at age 12 after being inspired by her wrestler grandmother. Sukhvir Malik told the BBC “she trained extremely hard – day and night. She had promised me [she would] bring a medal and she has done that.”
Sakshi’s home of Haryana has a reputation for its severely gap in gender equality, something which even stretched to wrestling. It was only in 2002 that girls were allowed to train in wrestling alongside boys.
Last year, Ishwar Singh Dahiya, Sakshi’s coach, told The Hindustan Times “Girls once not welcome at the Chotu Ram Stadium have now become its pride.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “On this very auspicious day of Raksha Bandhan, Sakshi Malik, a daughter of India, wins a Bronze and makes all of us very proud. #Rio2016.”