Coming from a state with one of the lowest female to male ratio (human sex ratio) – A woman is redefining dreams for all the girls in her sport. Sakshi Malik was in the city last weekend and we are so glad to share our experience with this haryanvi sherni (as addressed lovingly by her family). She was rightfully welcomed with a standing ovation to which she responded with a shy smile. Sakshi Malik is the first woman wrestler from India to bag an Olympic medal and only fourth female athlete from the country to raise the Indian flag at the most prestigious sporting event in the world. Her current chapter in life is glorious and it deserves all the applause but her first chapter was tough, full of injuries and sacrifices. The dark space with no light is what sets the path for your future.
“Wrestling is for boys, send your brother to the akhada”. Sakshi is a privileged child with supportive parents and siblings but there are lots that lack that emotional stability at home. Girls are held back because they assume we do not have a future in wrestling. All of us notice the grit of these athletes, but their true glory lies in the fact that they never gave up on their vision. It takes years to qualify for the Olympics, winning or losing is a completely different matter. Every athlete competing in the Olympics trains for five to ten years before qualifying. Those foundation years are what truly define your strength of character. There have been stories of Indian women athletes who were judged for choosing sports over a conventional education and marriage. That pressure only made them more determined about their goal.
Sakshi won a bronze for India and the media was overwhelmed by her victory, her journey from Rohtak to Rio was spectacular but there is a long way ahead. When asked about her motivation, she replied “I think of the Indian flag and no pain matters after that”. Sakshi is committed towards inspiring more young girls to get into wrestling, our next contingent to the Olympics should be flooded with talent. Her victory will be amplified when wrestling shines as a sport and Sakshi wants to lead the way. On being asked define a perfect day, Sakshi replied – “When I have 2 practice sessions and enough sleep”.
As a child I never played any sport and running was a nightmare, I stood away so no one noticed me but after meeting Sakshi I wished someone told me, doesn’t matter if you are last – Just give it a shot! I will always regret not aiming as high as her. You inspired me and I hope to take your message ahead with this blog post.