Sonam Malik downs Sakshi again, makes cut for Olympic qualifiers

The 18-year-old wrestler wins by fall in the final of the 62kg category; Kiran wins trial in 76kg.

Sonam Malik emerged the winner among nine wrestlers who appeared for the trials.   -  PTI (File)

Sonam Malik downed Sakshi Malik for the second time in a row, this time by pinning the Olympic medallist, to make it to the Indian team for next month’s Olympic Qualifiers here on Wednesday.

Asked to re-appear in trials after her not-so-strong performances at the Rome Ranking series event and the recently-concluded Asian Championships, the 18-year-old Sonam tore apart the challenge of established seniors in the 62kg competition. She first got past Radhika, and then, caring little for reputations, beat the Asian Championship 59kg gold medallist Sarita Mor (3-1) in the semifinals. She, then, won by fall against Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi in the final. She pinned Sakshi in the second period when trailing 1-2 with one minute left in the bout.

Nine wrestlers appeared for the 62kg trials, including 2018 World Championship bronze medallist Pooja Dhanda and a few from the upper weight categories.

“There was no nervousness before the bouts. I was determined to compete hard. I have fought against them before and I knew I had to battle it out. So I was prepared,” Sonam told PTI.

“And I have already fought with Sarita in Bawana in 2018 during a ‘Dangal’ I had to fight hard, you can’t say it’s easy for me. The competition was definitely better at the Asian Championships but our wrestlers are also getting better.”

Sonam said she needs to hone her style before the Bishkek Qualifiers.

“I will try my best. I need to work on my leg defence and ground attack before the Bishkek Qualifiers.”

Sonam also said that she will seek guidance from her seniors, including Sakshi and Sarita, before leaving for Olympic qualifiers.

“They are every experienced. They can definitely guide me. I am willing to take a few tips from them,” she said.

‘Big achievement’

Sonam, the reigning world cadet champion, trains at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Sports Institute at Madina (Sonepat) under coach Ajmer Malik. “Beating Sakshi by fall is a big achievement for this youngster. Sonam tired her out. And this was despite an elbow injury she had suffered during the Rome event and had not recovered completely [from]. She had not even trained well,” coach Ajmer said.

“The girls who were in the upper weight categories would have thought they will be able to dominate Sonam because she is young and inexperienced. I had told her that coming out winner in a competitive group like this would be huge and she has made us proud,” he added.

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Sonam created ripples by beating Sakshi in the trials conducted at the beginning of the season when the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) picked teams for the Rome Ranking Series event and the Asian Championships. Sonam failed to win a medal in both the events but impressed during her fifth-place finish in New Delhi.

The WFI made it clear that if performance of the wrestlers wasn’t satisfactory, it would conduct trials again, and announced trials in 62kg and 76kg for women and 60kg for Greco Roman style.

Meanwhile, Kiran won the trial in 76kg.

The Asian Olympic Qualifiers will be held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan from March 27-29. The finalists will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

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