Sakshi Malik sets her eyes on Asian Championship gold medal

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Sakshi Malik sets her eyes on Asian Championship gold medal

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SportsCafe Desk

05/09/2017

Sakshi Malik created history by becoming the first Indian woman to win an Olympic bronze medal in Rio last year. And now, as she steps onto the mat for her first tournament since then, not only is she confident of a good showing at the Asian Championships, but also has her eyes set on a gold medal.

It’s perhaps a touch unusual for an Olympic medalist to admit to being nervous before the start of a tournament. But this is exactly what Sakshi Malik feels ahead of the Asian Championships. Speaking to ESPN, Malik was at her honest best saying, "I shouldn't admit this but I am a little worried about competing."

Moreover, given that Malik has a poor individual record at the event, finishing a lowly 5th out of 8 competitors, in the women's 69 Kg category at the Bangkok edition last year. But things have changed drastically for the 24-year-old in the last one year, and she’s, now, easily the most recognizable star of the Indian contingent.

And there’ll certainly be no bigger name on the Indian roster when the tournament gets underway at New Delhi's KD Jadhav stadium on Wednesday. However, it’s also slightly ironic that Malik hasn’t featured in a wrestling competition ever since her achievement in Rio, apart from the Pro Wrestling league, where she didn't come up against many well-known names.

But Malik knows that there won’t be any place to hide in the Asian Championships and she’s up for the challenge. "There is always some pressure when you are returning to competition. There are a lot of expectations on me because I am an Olympic medalist, and it is even more so when you are at home."

Sakshi is currently a part of the ongoing national camp in Lucknow and said she’s happy with her preparations for the tournament. Moreover, although there were doubts over her preparations for the tournament owing to the time frame since her exploits at the Olympics, she silenced her critics by an overwhelming win over the youngster, Manju Kumari 10-0 in a selection trial. But despite her success, Malik is fully aware of the fact that the competition that awaits her at the Asian Championships is of another level.

"It isn't as if I have no competition domestically but if I have to get better I have to compete against international opponents. It is only here where we actually get to learn the sport”.

The 12 competitors in Malik’s division include China's Xingru Pei, who won gold in the 60kg division at the World Championships last year and Japan's Katsuki Sakagami, who is a former World Cup gold medalist. Moreover, defending Asian Champion Aisuluu Tynybekova will also be looking to exact her final second loss to Malik in Rio, as it cost her the Olympic bronze medal.

With regards to how the Olympic medal has boosted her morale, Malik said, "The Olympic medal makes you a different wrestler. I have so much more self-belief in my ability now. Regardless of the situation, I know I have the ability to win."

Sakshi will also have the company of her fellow wrestler and husband Satyawart Kadian at the event as he takes part in the men's 97kg freestyle after the two got married last month. And though, she’s happy to have him by her side, she knows that ultimately her performance lies in her own hands. Finally, she’s confident of a good showing saying, "Gold le ke aana hai (Have to win the gold),"

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