For Anshu and Sonam Malik, fathers became roommates in Lucknow to support Tokyo wrestling dreams

“The two families are like one big family, separated by 30-odd kilometres,” said Rajender, Sonam’s father, summarising the journey he and Dharamvir Malik, Anshu’s father, have taken together, dreaming a common dream while their daughters wrestled, literally and figuratively, for the same medals.

Anshu and Sonam were winning medals at the national, continental and international levels in their sub-junior days in 2016, and they shared a room on the road while their fathers, accompanying them, did likewise.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Two young girls, two doting fathers, and a common dream.

Just as the Olympics are a celebration of human excellence and endeavour, the different roads that athletes take to get there are often paved with the same stones – hard work, dedication and sacrifice. For Anshu and Sonam Malik, the commonality extends far beyond this and their surnames.

Born a little over seven months apart into wrestling families in Haryana, they competed in the same weight category in their early years, their fathers by their side. Today, “the two families are like one big family, separated by 30-odd kilometres,” said Rajender, Sonam’s father.

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It is an apt summary of the journey he and Dharamvir Malik – Anshu’s father, of course – have taken together, dreaming a common dream while their daughters wrestled, literally and figuratively, for the same medals.

It all started when Anshu and Sonam participated at a national-level under-15 event in Gandhinagar six years ago.

“Both the girls competed in the same 51kg weight category at a state school meet in 2014. We developed a bond when we travelled from Gandhinagar by train in 2015. Later, we realised that it would be wiser for them to compete in different weight categories as both could win gold medals,” says Rajender, who hails from Madina village in Sonepat district of Haryana, a state that is the cradle of Indian wrestling.

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The two girls were winning medals at the national, continental and international levels in their sub-junior days in 2016 and they shared a room on the road while their fathers, accompanying them, did likewise.

Sonam and Anshu Malik with their fathers and WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

When Anshu and Sonam shifted to the national camp in Lucknow as elite wrestlers, Rajender and Dharamvir, both wrestlers in their younger days, rented a room nearby. When the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Centre in the Uttar Pradesh capital became out of bounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the two fathers requested the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and its president, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, to facilitate their stay inside the campus.

“We have been staying together in one room inside the complex. I am thankful to the WFI for providing us with the facility,” said 45-year-old Dharamvir, from Nidani village in Jind district.

According to Dharamvir, who was a student of Dronacharya Award-winning wrestling coach Om Prakash Dahiya, taking care of their daughters gives him and Rajender peace of mind – and allows them to share tips.

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Fifty-year-old Rajender, who learnt wrestling at the Master Chandgi Ram Akhara in Delhi, explains: “Giving inputs is not restricted to one’s daughter. If I see something wrong in Anshu, I give my advice, and if Dharamvir sees some scope of improvement in Sonam’s game, then he does not hesitate.”

Dharamvir and Rajender both made sacrifices so they could devote their time entirely to their daughters. Dharamvir, who is retired from the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), delegated his farm duty to other members of his family to be with Anshu, who will turn 20 next month. Rajender, who works in a sugar mill, has made arrangements with his employer so he can look after 19-year-old Sonam.

The decision by the two men years ago to have their daughters compete in different weight categories instead of against each other paid off – Anshu qualified for the 2020 Games in the 57kg class, Sonam in the 62kg.

For the two Malik families, their paths merged on that train to Gandhinagar – chance-met or destined by fate. And they’ve reached their destination together.

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