"I had to give my maximum but from inside I somehow knew I could pull it off...I could win.”
Sakshi Malik won the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, defeating Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan in the women’s 58kg freestyle bout of wrestling.
The 23-year-old became the first woman from India to grasp a medal at the Rio Olympics 2016 in Brazil.
She has also became the fourth female athlete from the country, to stand at the stage at the pinnacle of world sport.
Aisuluu Tynybekova was dominating the game in the early stages of her Women’s 58kg Freestyle bronze medal final, as her leg-grab move led the score to be 5-0.
However, this didn’t hold the Haryana wrestler back, as she fought back to emerge victorious.
Sakshi had made several attacks, but the opponent seemed unbeatable.
“I was just thinking that ‘I will do it’,” expressed Malik. “However I can, whichever way I can, I only would pin her because I somewhere knew that if I just stayed in the fight till the end of the six minutes, I would win. It was the last round, I had to give my maximum but from inside I somehow knew I could pull it off…I could win.”
In a tense contest, Sakshi had only two minutes to turn the game around. In the second period of the bout, Malik believed in herself and bounced back.
The self-assured Sakshi turned Tynybekova over a few times, pinning her opponent down.
She then used the infamous double leg attack, targeting the legs of the opponent to take her out of the mat which scored her the crucial points to win.
Realising her victory, Sakshi ecstatically jumped in the air. However, the coaching staff of Tynybekova called for an official review, claiming their wrestler had rolled Malik over as well.
The Indian athlete had to wait a few seconds before she could celebrate. First the athlete was in disbelief, but then the magnitude of her achievement came through.
The judges reviewed the replay and made a decision in favour of Sakshi. However, due to the failed review, Sakshi Malik also achieved an extra point, resulting the final score to be 8-5.
At that point, Malik created history.
India’s new female hero stepped up onto the podium full of pride and received her well-deserved bronze medal, creating a dramatic moment for India at the Rio Olympic Games.
As India heard the news of Malik’s outstanding achievement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his joy on Twitter:
Malik previously won the silver medal for India in the women’s freestyle 58 kg category at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and a bronze medal at the Senior Asian Wrestling Championships in Doha last year.
Sakshi Malik comes from a conservative village in Haryana where she began playing the sport at the age of nine. While training to be a wrestler, she had to overcome many hurdles including sexism and social biases.
Winning the first medal at the games for India is a tremendous achievement and Sakshi Malik shows her triumph in Rio 2016 should be cherished as an inspiration to future female athletes.