Sakshi Malik gets India's first medal in Rio

Sakshi Malik, the 22-year-old from Rohtak, Haryana, reinforced the toughness of the Indian woman, as she turned the bout around in the last nine seconds of the bronze battle to trigger a wild round of celebration at the Carioca arena on Wednesday.

India's Sakshi Malik competes against Aisuluu Tynybekova (blue) of Kyrgyzstan during the women's freestyle 58 kg bronze medal match.   -  Getty Images

India's Sakshi Malik (Blue) trounced Mongolia's Orkhon Purevdorg 12-3 in Repechage round on Wednesday.   -  PTI

It required a gutsy woman, after 12 days of barren run, to win the first medal for India in the Rio Olympics.

Sakshi Malik, the 22-year-old from Rohtak, Haryana, reinforced the toughness of the Indian woman, as she turned the bout around in the last nine seconds of the bronze battle against Kyrgyzstan's Aisuluu Tynybekova to trigger a wild round of celebration at the Carioca arena on Wednesday.

> Sakshi Malik: Know your champ

"I knew I would be the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal for India. Even when I was trailing, I was confident that if I fight through the six minutes, I will win," said Sakshi, quite thrilled and understandably emotional after the triumph.

She thanked everyone, the whole country back home for all the good wishes that stood her well in the moment of reckoning. Sakshi joined the elite company of Sushil Kumar, who had won the silver in London and bronze in Beijing, apart from Yogeshwar Dutt and K. D. Jadhav to win a wrestling medal for India at the Olympics.

> Read: Result of my 12 years of hard work

Sakshi became only the fourth Indian woman after weightlifter Karnam Malleswari in Sydney in 2000, boxer Mary Kom and badminton ace Saina Nehwal in 2012, to win an Olympic medal for India.

Belief triumphed

It was a courageous performance by the pocket powerhouse, as when everyone had given up in the audience among the strong Indian contingent, quite familiar by now with the missed chances, she believed that she would win the medal. She delivered.

After trailing 0-5 in the first round of three minutes, Sakshi kept inching closer to the medal by bridging the gap. When it became 5-5 there were only nine seconds on the clock in the second round.



I knew I would be the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal for India. Even when I was trailing, I was confident that if I fight through the six minutes, I will win.


In a final thrust of power and aggression, and clarity of intent, Sakshi pounced on her opponent and turned her around for the clincher, which won eight technical points in all for her in the second round. Her exasperated opponent drew a blank in the second round after such a flying start.

Bad loser

Sakshi was declared a winner 3-1 on points, and it was difficult for the Kyrgyzstan wrestller to accept the verdict.

Tynybekova appealed for a video referral but it was turned down and it was curtains for her challenge. She was reluctant to shake hands and accept defeat.

The referee had to literally snatch her hand and drag her to declare the winner and complete the formalities.

Sakshi’s coaches had already jumped on to the arena to celebrate the historic moment for Indian women’s wrestling. As had become the tradition this evening, Sakshi was carried on the shoulders by her coach, and she ran around with the National flag much to the joy of the strong Indian presence and all the people awake back home, waiting for the first medal. > View Sakshi's road to bronze medal

After losing the quarterfinal to the eventual silver medallist, Zholobova of Russia, Sakshi won two repechage rounds back to back in a short time, first in a comprehensive fashion with 12 technical points against Orkhon Purevdroj of Mongolia, before showing her fighting class against Tynybekova.

It was the biggest achievement for Sakshi and Indian women’s wrestling. She had won the Asian Championship bronze, the Asian Games bronze in Incheon, and the Commonwealth Games silver in 2014.

For a woman who had faced objections when she started wrestling in 2004, Sakshi has indeed silenced the male chauvinists with her deeds on the mat.

It is the beginning of a new era. Maybe, Sakshi’s medal would strengthen the resolve of the rest of the Indians still fighting for a medal, to dig deep and compete hard over the next few days.

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