Sakshi Malik’s Tokyo 2020 dream all but over

The bronze medallist at Rio 2016 lost to upcoming talent Sonam Malik at the national trials for the Asian Olympic Qualifiers.

By Naveen Peter ·

Star Indian wrestler Sakshi Malik’s dream of competing in her second Olympics has been dealt a huge blow.

This after the bronze medallist from Rio 2016 lost to one of India’s upcoming sensation Sonam Malik in the national trials for the upcoming Asian Olympic qualifiers on Wednesday. 

While the announcement of fresh trials in the 62kg women’s wrestling category handed Sakshi Malik a new lease of life, the Indian wrestler couldn’t make the most of the opportunity. 

A close loss (2-3) in the final means Sonam Malik will represent India at the continental qualifiers scheduled to be held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan from March 27-29.

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) had called for fresh trials in three categories wherein they found the performance of the Indian wrestlers below-par at the Asian Wrestling Championships that concluded a few days back. 

While Sonam Malik failed to win a medal in the 62kg category, losing out to the reigning world champion Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan in her bronze medal bout, Kiran failed to deliver in the 76kg division, bowing out of the competition in the third round. Meanwhile, Gyanendra had failed to clinch a medal in the 60kg Greco-Roman category too.

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Sonam Malik retains her spot

On Wednesday though, Sonam Malik didn’t face any such trouble as she got past her challenges with relative ease.

In the quarter-final, Sonam Malik beat her state-mate Radhika 5-1 while she got the better of Sarita Mor 3-1 in the semi-final bout. Sarita had won the gold in the 59kg category -- a non-Olympic division -- at the Asian meet and also beat the former World Championships bronze medallist Pooja Dhanda in the quarter-final.

However, in the final, the 18-year-old had to bring the best in her to the mat to get past her much-celebrated opponent to retain her place in the Indian wrestling squad.

A big achievement for Sonam Malik

“Beating Sakshi is a big achievement for this youngster. Sonam tired her out. And this was despite an elbow injury she had suffered during the Rome event and had not recovered completely. She even had not trained well," her coach Ajmer said after Sonam’s win.

“The girls who were in the upper weight categories would have thought they would be able to dominate Sonam because she is young and inexperienced. I had told her that coming out a winner in a competitive group like this would be huge and she has made us proud," he added.

Meanwhile, in the 76kg category, Kiran retained her place in the Indian team while Gyanendra will once again feature in the 60kg Greco-Roman division for the upcoming qualifiers for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.