Wrestler Sakshi Malik became an overnight sensation when she grabbed India's first Olympic medal in the early hours of August 18. The first Indian woman wrestler to win at the Olympics, she joins the ranks of Mary Kom and Sania Nehwal as the fourth Indian woman to bag an Olympic medal.
On August 18, Twitter was flooded with congratulatory messages for Malik. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “On this very auspicious day of Raksha Bandhan, Sakshi Malik, a daughter of India, wins a Bronze & makes all of us very proud.”
Celebrities and sports personalities hailed her success as an inspiration for social change, encouraging more women to take up sports.
#SakshiMalik is a reminder of what cn happn if u don't kill a girl child.When d going gets tough,its our girls who get going &save our pride— Virender Sehwag (@virendersehwag) August 18, 2016
Bow down to #SakshiMalik 's mother as well,who encouraged her 2 pursue wrestling.Tdy a country of1.25bn is rejoicing— Vijender Singh (@boxervijender) August 18, 2016
The 23-year-old girl from Haryana defeated Kyrgyzstan's Aisuluu Tynybekova in the Freestyle 58kg bronze medal play off round. The match was tense, as she set off on a shaky start, but bounced back up in the last two minutes to end with a score of 8-5.
A first-timer to Olympics, Malik said, “I never thought I would become the first woman wrestler from India to bag an Olympic medal in wrestling. I hope the remaining wrestlers will also do well.”
Coached by Ishwar Dahiya, she began her freestyle wrestling career in 2002. She comes from Mokhra, a tiny village in Rohtak, Haryana. Despite opposition from society, she took up training for the sport at the age of 12, her parents supporting her decisions. Many disagreed with her coach Dahiya when he decided to take her under his wing. But when the medals and awards started pouring in, the voices of dissent went silent. Her first medal was a bronze in 2010 at the Junior World Championships. She made her mark and came to prominence when she bagged a gold medal at the Junior Asian Championships in 2012. Other accolades included a silver medal in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, a bronze at Asian championships in 2015 in Qatar and another bronze at the Spanish Grand Prix in 2016.
Shobhaa De, who was in the news recently for her casually negative remarks about India's Olympic contingent, also congratulated her. De had raised public ire when she said that the Indian Olympic team was “a waste of money and opportunities”, and claimed that all they did there was click selfies and come back empty-handed. Some Twitterers said that Malik's victory was a “slap in the face” of Shobhaa De.