Life has suddenly changed for grappler Sakshi Malik after her Bronze-medal win at the Rio Olympics. Accolades have been pouring in, she has been bestowed with the highest sporting honor of the nation, and more than those, Sakshi says she is humbled by the love and respect the people have shown her.
After making the podium finish in the grandest stage of sports, the name Sakshi Malik has become the toast of every Indian. She was awarded the highest sporting honor in the country, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, last week.
“I had never thought I would get the Khel Ratna before getting an Arjuna Award. I always thought it will be 'Sakshi Malik, Arjuna awardee' first. In fact, I used to wonder when my name would get that tag. It (Ratna) is a massive honour and I feel tremendously lucky.” Sakshi said in an exclusive interview to the Times of India.
The 23 year-old Haryana grappler, who was the first to win a medal for India after 11 days of struggle at the Olympics, was pleasantly surprised by the love and affection showered by the people of the country after that.
“People came in thousands to receive me at the airport...Wherever I have gone people have given me so much love and respect. It was totally unexpected. The Prime Minister, President and other dignitaries have shown so much warmth that it's unbelievable.”
She gave credit to her coach, Ishwar Singh Dahiya, who allowed to practice with the boys in her childhood. The Haryana lass also underlined the importance of proper training and rest for an athlete.“More and more training camps should be organized abroad. Then we should be able to participate in international tournaments regularly, so that we get to know our rivals and also gauge where we stand in comparison with top international wrestlers. Our national championships should also improve so that the competition there is fierce. I mean it should come close to the standards of international tournaments. These are some of the points that need to be looked into.”
“We had two-three training camps abroad just before the Olympics. Those were really beneficial for me. I managed to improve during those camps. The result is there for everyone to see. I hope we get regular and consistent exposure before any mega event like the Olympics, Commonwealth and the Asian Games” she told TOI.
Wrestling, which had become the lone sport where India could vouch for a medal, could not live up to the billing at this Olympics. Yogeshwar Dutt could not cross the hurdle, and Narsingh Yadav’s campaign did not even take off after he was found guilty of doping, whereas Vinesh Phogat was injured at a crucial stage in her fight towards a medal.
Showing tremendous team spirit and respect, Sakshi praised the Wrestling contingent for their brave show over the years.
“I expected more than one medal from our wrestling contingent. But we were somewhat unlucky. After the Greco-Roman wrestlers lost, I had told Vinesh (Phogat) that we had to win medals and I was sure that Vinesh would win at least the silver. The way she performed in the first round, where she totally outclassed her Romanian opponent 11-0, was incredible. Unfortunately, she got injured. Then there was the ban on Narsingh. All of us also expected a medal from Pehelwaan ji (Yogeshwar Dutt). But he was also unlucky. There were a series of small and big incidents which meant the wrestlers collectively couldn't perform up to expectations.”
Sachin Tendulkar presented her a brand new BMW car after she won the Bronze for the country. Sakshi said that she wanted to present the key of that luxury car to her father, who has suffered a lot of criticism and problems to see her champion.
“I will drive the blue VW Polo car that my father gifted me two years back after I won silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. I will gift the BMW to my dad. He has sacrificed a lot for me” she said.
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