Mumbai: When she steps foot on a wrestling mat, be it any competition, the bar of expectations is always high for Sakshi Malik.
Her big moment arrived at Rio in 2016 when she became the first woman wrestler to win an Olympic medal, claiming bronze in the 58kg category. But since then, the Rohtak-born grappler has witnessed several ups and downs.
There was a chance to add another jewel to the crown at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (CWG) in April but Sakshi managed to cling to bronze, slipping a mark from silver she clinched at the Glasgow 2014 edition.
Now, as she turns attention to the upcoming 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Sakshi is focused on her showing and not medals.
“There is a bit of pressure before heading into every tournament. People tell me, ‘others may get a medal or not but you have to and I am like, why me?’ There is pressure to perform well as all eyes are on me. But I don’t head into tournaments thinking I have to win gold. I just focus on giving my best and the rest will follow,” she said during a TATA Motors event, new sponsors of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI).
Sakshi and Geeta Phogat will head a six-member Indian women wrestling team at the Asian Games. In the build-up for the quadrennial event, Sakshi disappointed at the recently-concluded Tbilisi Grand Prix in Georgia but she feels it hasn’t affected her confidence.
“Confidence and performance are two different things for an athlete. There are many up and downs in one’s career. I target a medal in every tournament but things don’t always pan out as you wish. I feel dejected whenever I am denied a medal and you go through a lot after that. But once it’s gone, you need to resume and turn attention to another competition,” the Padma Shri awardee explained.
The 27-year-old has been working on her physical condition as she competes in the 63kg freestyle class in Indonesia. The likes of Pinki (53kg), Pooja Dhanda (57kg), Divya Kakran (68kg) and Kiran (72kg) are other women wrestlers who will fly for the tournament in Jakarta and Palembang from 18 August to 2 September....