The touching tale of a woman wrestler overcoming the odds to win an Olympic medal for India had a most humble beginning in a child’s desire to take up sport so she could fly in aeroplanes. Sakshi Malik’s remarkable endurance and zeal in a comeback victory in a repêchage medal opportunity not only ends India’s hunt in a long dry run in Rio, but also throws light on talent in small towns. Sakshi’s choice of sport and her parents’ willingness to let her take it up also carries its own message. Her mother was bold enough to say she had no objection because she knew India was changing and she is proud her daughter broke stereotypes and challenged sexism to get to where she has as a model sportswoman winning the first ever medal by an Indian woman wrestler.
Going to a male-dominated akhara to learn wrestling would never have seemed a chic thing to do for a girl, but that is what Sakshi did, winning medals in Commonwealth and Asian Games to show her potential. Censorious as a billion-plus Indians were as they waited for the breakthrough in Rio, their delighted reaction to Sakshi’s win was sensational. The Haryana government announced a Rs 2.5 crore prize for Sakshi as well as a job. Sporting tales hang by a thin thread. A defensive Sakshi was at the receiving end and behind 0-5 with barely seconds to go on the six-minute countdown against Kyrgyzstan’s Aisuluu Tynybekova for the bronze. As in all her comeback efforts spurred by her ability to tough it out and turn the tables, Sakshi showed remarkable courage under pressure. She deserves every accolade for breaking India’s duck in Rio.