Sakshi Malik: I want to change the colour of my medal

Wrestler Sakshi Malik, 27, is known for her daring last-minute moves that saw her steal victory from the jaws of defeat to clinch a historic bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Trailing 0-5, she rallied to beat Asian champion Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan 8-5 in the bronze medal playoff at the quadrennial event in Brazil to become India's first female grappler to win an
Olympic medal.

However, in the last couple of years, she has picked up just bronze medals—one at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and one each at the Asian Championships in Bishkek (2018) and Xi'an (2019).

Last-minute jitters

A technical flaw during the last-moments of the rounds have led to a bad patch after which the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily halted her quest to make it to the Tokyo Olympics qualifiers. "The 2018 season was good and I trained hard to win that medal [bronze at Gold Coast CWG]. I was close to getting a medal at the Jakarta Asian Games too but lost out by a few seconds.

"I have analysed my performance and found that I get puzzled in the last moments of the rounds leading to mistakes in footwork. I am trying to improve on my footwork to ensure I commit less errors going forward. Rio was a good performance but I want to change the colour of my medal next year," Sakshi told mid-day from her home in Haryana on Thursday.

Safe and sound at home

Sakshi may have won the Rio bronze through sheer dare devilry but currently she has no intention of risking the outdoors for fear of the Coronavirus. "I'm indoors, safe and sound. It is not safe for us to travel to training centres to practice. I'm using traditional training methods. Instead of hitting the gym, I have started levelling the soil at the akhara at home by pulling a wooden log that is tied to a long rope across my shoulders. This exercise has helped me build strength and stay physically fit so that I can easily get back to training when the time comes. I can't wait to put on my ASICS wrestling gear and step onto that mat to compete again," added the 58kg category freestyle grappler.

Speaking about the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, Sakshi felt it will afford her that much more time to prepare. "The Olympics is the most important event in any athlete's life. I feel, with time, everyone understands their profession or sport better and now that I have one more year to prepare, I will change gears accordingly to reach the pinnacle of my fitness," she signed off.

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