It’s been four months since Sakshi Malik won the Olympic medal. Yet, the frenzy refuses to die down. She continues to be hounded for autographs and selfies, and has been busy attending functions and felicitations. But she isn’t complaining. The country’s first woman wrestler to win an Olympic medal understands the curiousity around her. “I do get irritated. I feel tired sometimes and there are times when I think I should just go home. For example, at Geeta (Phogat) didi’s wedding, people were asking me questions about my life. It’s just tiring to answer same questions all over again. But then, I am the only female wrestler in this country to win a medal at the Olympics. So why shouldn’t I do all this?” Sakshi says.
The stardom Sakshi enjoys was evident on Friday. At the launch of the Delhi franchise of the Pro Wrestling League, which begins on January 2, the spotlight was firmly on her. Just last year, Sakshi was just another wrestler from Haryana trying to make a name for herself.
In Sushil Kumar’s absense, London Olympics bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt was the poster boy of the league. This time, though, Sakshi is the face of the fortnight-long tournament.
“It feels good to be in this situation. I have won a bronze medal and that is my biggest achievement. Why should I forget it? The feeling that I have an Olympic bronze medal has sunk but I will not forget that I am only girl to have it. I am preparing for upcoming tournaments keeping in mind that I am the bronze medallist,” she says.
The PWL will be Sakshi’s first tournament after the Olympics. She missed the national championships last month as she was not prepared for it. In the PWL, she will most likely meet the other Rio Olympics bronze medallist in the 58kg category, Marwa Amri.
The Tunisian will represent the Haryana franchise. The other four teams have Indian wrestlers in the 58kg and all of them, barring Geeta Phogat, are less experienced than Sakshi.
Competing against the Indian wrestlers is not the only thing that Sakshi is looking forward to. To prepare for next year’s Asian Championships in New Delhi, she is focusing on sparring and learning more techniques from the international wrestlers, even from other categories.
“I know I am more experienced than most of the wrestlers in my category but that doesn’t mean I take them lightly. My focus will not only be on the competition. There will be wrestlers from all around the world and I need to do all I can and learn from them. I will have sparring sessions with them and I’ll talk to them about wrestling,” she says.
In the last season of PWL, Sakshi emerged as the champion with the Mumbai team. She is keen to repeat her performance with Delhi. “There were world champions in the league last year. There will be more champions this year but I want to also be among the best. I have the chance and I’ll perform. Because I won a bronze doesn’t mean I have achieved everything. I have plans ahead. I know where I have to focus. If the Rio Olympics were to be held now, I would beat the Russian I lost to. I have more knowledge than ever before right now. This is my time,” she says.