Coach Iswhar Dahiya: 'Sakshi a quick learner'

Going down memory lane, Sakshi's coach Ishwar Chand Dahiya said he was impressed with her strong physique and sincerity when she joined his then newly-opened Chaudhary Chhoturam Wrestling Academy in Rohtak in 2004.

Sakshi Malik celebrates after winning the women's 58kg weightlifting bronze in Rio on Wednesday.   -  Getty Images

For Ishwar Chand Dahiya, it was the busiest day of his life. After giving interviews to mediapersons from morning to evening on Thursday, Dahiya admitted that he never had such a hectic day. Nevertheless, he did not mind it as his student Sakshi Malik had made him proud by winning a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics.

Going down memory lane, Dahiya said he was impressed with young Sakshi's strong physique and sincerity when she joined his then newly-opened Chaudhary Chhoturam Wrestling Academy in Rohtak in 2004.

“Shakshi was one of the first students to join my academy. Her grandfather was a wrestler and her parents loved wrestling and supported her thoroughly. She was well-built and was a regular to attend the training sessions,” Dahiya, who served in the Haryana Sports Department as a wrestling coach before retiring two years ago, told Sportstar.

Dahiya said he did not have to bother too much for Sakshi, who went on to win a World junior championship medal. “She was a very good student and a quick learner. She picked up things very promptly and that fast-tracked her progress.”

Fighting in the 58kg weight category, life was never easy for Sakshi as Commonwealth gold medallist, World championship medallist and Olympian Geeta Phogat was the undisputed queen of the category.

The initial days were a struggle but Sakshi finally made her mark when she got the chance in the 2014 Commonwealth Games due to an injury to Geeta. The youngster landed a silver medal to assert that she was no easy push-over.

“Losing to Geeta in the trials was a demoralising experience for her. But later she grabbed the opportunity with both hands,” said Dahiya.

The Pro Wrestling League (PWL) was another confidence booster for Sakshi, who was hired by coach Mahabir Prasad for Revanta Mumbai Garuda.

“I told her that she had been hired to beat Geeta and she said, ‘I will try.’ I told her nobody has ever won by saying ‘I will try.’ You have to believe in yourself.”

Sakshi upset Geeta in the PWL and made her case stronger. After Geeta was suspended due to ‘indiscipline’ at an Olympic qualifying event, Sakshi got the chance and claimed a quota place in the following qualifying competition.

“I always believed that she was capable of winning a medal in the Olympics. Now, I am sure she can achieve even better results,” said Dahiya.

Mahabir agreed. “Sakshi has a few technical problems. She is a slow starter and tends to lock fingers with the opponent and invites reprimand. If she overcomes these issues, she can go a long way,” said Mahabir.

For now, Sakshi’s moment of glory is the moment of glory for every Indian.