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Champion's Pledge: Rio Olympics medallist Sakshi Malik wants to make wrestling India's favourite sport

Besides shuttler PV Sindhu, she was one of the two Indians to win a medal at the recently concluded Olympics Games at Rio.

Champion's Pledge: Rio Olympics medallist Sakshi Malik wants to make wrestling India's favourite sport

New Delhi: India's beloved wrestler and Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik on Friday pledged to make wrestling one of India's favourite sports.

The 24-year-old was talking at a felicitation function, organised to honour her 2016 Olympics exploits, in Delhi by a major public sector bank.

Besides shuttler PV Sindhu, she was one of the two Indians to win a medal at the recently concluded Olympics Games at Rio.

Malik became the first Indian woman wrestler to clinch a medal at Olympics, and was subsequently honoured with country's highest sporting award – the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award on the occasion of National Sports Day on August 29.

Wrestling, a traditional sports in India, is limited to rural areas with its greatest wrestlers coming out from the north Indian belt, particularly from the state of Haryana.

Before Malik, three Indian wrestlers have won four Olympic medals — a bronze by Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav in 1952 and a silver and bronze by Sushil Kumar in 2008 and 2012 respectively, and another bronze by Yogeshwar Dutt in 2012.

But the sports never reached its promised heights, specially considering how it was once associated with many legends and folklore. And despite being one of India's best medal winning sports, it still remains a poor cousin to cricket, which is a non-Olympic sport, badminton and tennis.

Malik's medal somehow saved India the blushes in Rio, but overall disappointment was there as a strong contingent of eight wrestlers — could only flirt with the high expectations.

The unwarranted doping fiasco involving one of the medal hopes Narsingh Pancham Yadav, and his prolonged legal battle with Olympic legend Sushil Kumar have already put the sport in bad light.

That's where the importance of her medal comes into play. If it had not been for her, Indian wrestling might have been looking for more trouble.

Unlike other celebrity wrestlers like Yogeshwar Dutt – who is London Olympics medallist, and Phogat cousins — Vinesh and Babita Kumari, Malik entered the Games as a virtual outsider.

For her efforts, riding on the bronze medal finish, Sakshi now entered the top-five in the United World Wrestling rankings, and thus increasing the expectations in her future outings.

In the next four-year cycle, the previously unranked wrestler will carry the mettle of leading Indian wrestling baton in international competitions, including the Asiad and Olympiad.

Truth be told, she was nobody until the Games, and even those who knew her never expected India to win a medal in the women's under 58 kg freestyle event.

No doubt, she and Sindhu have been accorded state welcome, honoured with laurels and given monetary rewards any sportsperson would love to get in a lifetime, but that's not enough.

It still needs a holistic investment, to see a realistic progression which in turn can translate into Olympic medals. So thus other sports, which are crying for good governance and better funding.

But realistically speaking, it will be tough for any wrestler to repeat the medal wrestling efforts in successive Olympics. Those who have done are celebrated as legends. But it's not everybody's cup of tea.

In fact, Malik keeping herself physically fit and focus for the next Games in Tokyo, will be as tough as starting fresh.

From Zee News

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