Sakshi Malik backs Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia to win medals in Tokyo

The Rio 2016 medallist, meanwhile, is hoping for another round of trials that could see her compete at the Asian and world qualifiers for Tokyo

Ace Indian wrestler and India’s only female Olympic medallist in the sport, Sakshi Malik is confident of regaining her lost form and booking a quota place in the 62kg category at the Tokyo Games.

And she hopes to join fellow Indian grapplers Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia, whom she has tipped as Olympic medal contenders, at the Tokyo Games.

After an historic display at the Rio 2016 Olympics, where Sakshi Malik clinched the bronze medal, the Haryana wrestler has largely struggled since.

Though she managed a bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Sakshi Malik was upstaged in the first round before returning via the repechage.

She returned empty-handed from the Asian Games and had early exits at the Sassari City Matteo Pellicone Memorial and the Yasar Dogu Memorial tournaments. But the results haven’t deterred her.

“I know how to bounce back,” Sakshi Malik told Times of India.

“The way I am training and practising, I am confident that I will do well at the trials and secure an Olympic quota," the 27-year-old added.

Sakshi Malik also has Sonam Malik standing in her way in the 62kg category, against whom she went down to twice in the national trials. 

But the 27-year-old is aiming to make amends with hopes for another chance ahead of the Tokyo Games.

“I have learnt from those bouts. I have learnt that I need to be focussed in the last seconds of the bout,” said Sakshi Malik. “I don't want to get distracted.

“If I qualify in [next trials] I will have two more chances [to qualify for the Games], the Asian World Olympics qualifiers and the World Olympics qualifiers," the wrestler pointed out.

Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia favourites

So far, four Indian wrestlers have booked quotas for the Tokyo Olympics.

Two of those grapplers, however, particularly stand out for Sakshi Malik as medal prospects next year.

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“Vinesh was a strong medal contender in Rio as well,” the 2020 Asian Wrestling Championship silver medallist said. “She got injured otherwise she would have gone ahead and won the medal for India.

“I am confident that she will stand on the podium this time. For me, Vinesh and Bajrang are the top medal contenders for the country,” Malik added.

Bronze medallist at London 2012, Yogeshwar Dutt too had picked Bajrang Punia as his favourite for an Olympic medal, along with Vinesh Phogat and Deepak Punia.

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