In conversation with Olympian Sakshi Malik
Yoshika Sangal | January 27, 2017 | New Delhi
Sakshi Malik is the first Indian female wrestler to bag an Olympic medal. The 24-year-old comes from Mokhra village of Rohtak, Haryana. She came into the limelight as an international wrestler after she won bronze in the Junior World Championship in 2010. Then, she went on to win silver in the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and a bronze at the Asian Wrestling Championships in 2015. After Rio Olympics, Malik was conferred India’s highest sporting honour – the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. She is also the brand ambassador of the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign in Haryana.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
It comes from my grandfather who was a wrestler himself. He used to sit with me and explain the sport very passionately. He taught me the rules and the techniques of wrestling and that got me interested in it. My training started when I was 12 and since then I have never looked back.
What’s the key to your success?
Focus. When I am under training, I don’t have anything on my mind except wrestling and that is what, I guess, results into my success.
Do you think films like Dangal will change the outlook towards women?
Films like these portray the glory in wrestling as a sport, which I believe is essential. They may not single-handedly be able to change the mindset of people but they sure do help largely in the whole process.
How do you feel about being the brand ambassador of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign?
It is a great honour. But it also puts a lot of pressure on me. On the other side, it gives me an opportunity to do something for the girls and women of our country.
Does the training of wrestlers in India meet international standards? If not, how can it be improved?
I think we will start getting better on facing more and more international competitors. Yes, there is a lot of room for improvement, but I am sure standards will improve on receiving more exposure from the world.
How can we increase Indian participation in international events like Olympics?
We need better facilities. For instance, when I started wrestling, there were no fans at my centre in Rohtak (Haryana). Now it has changed though. These things have to be dealt with if you want to make champions. Although things are changing, they need to be sustained. Corporates like JSW are investing in sports; leagues are coming up. We have to recognise and rectify the flaws in basic facilities for athletes – easy access to training centres, air-conditioning or cooling, proper equipment, proper nutrition, etc.
Is there anything that differentiates you from your contemporaries?
Each sportsperson is different and that’s the way they should all think. Thinking that we are all one and the same is not very encouraging.
(The interview appears in the January 16-31, 2017 issue)
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