Sakshi Malik brought an end to India’s long wait for a medal at the ongoing Rio Olympics, clinching bronze in the Women’s Freestyle 58kg category with a spirited comeback victory over Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan.
The 23-year-old from Rohtak overturned a 0-5 deficit in a hectic second round to script an 8-5 victory in the bronze medal bout at the Carioca Arena 2 on Wednesday.
It was a rousing display of fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude from the Indian.
Sakshi, who had also finished on the podium at the 2015 Asian Championships, created history by becoming the first Indian female wrestler to clinch an Olympic medal.
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Aisuluu was clearly the superior wrestler in the totally one-sided opening round, displaying impressive strength and technique to take five points and open up a formidable lead.
But Sakshi -- who has previously shown a knack of staging strong comebacks -- was a totally transformed grappler in the second round, taking eight consecutive points to send the sizable number of Indian fans in the stands into wild delirium.
The bronze medal bout was off to a hectic start as Aisuluu tried to force the early initiative with an attempted leg hold but Sakshi defended successfully.
The Kyrgyz grappler displayed impressive strength and was more active in the opening stages which forced Sakshi to go on the defensive.
However, the referee invoked the passivity rule against Sakshi which handed the Kyrgyz the first point.
Aisuluu then made a successful takedown to bag another two points. Aisuluu continued to pile on the pressure and bagged another couple of points with another successful tackle to build up a healthy 5-0 lead at the break.
Sakshi made a superb comeback in the second round, turning a defensive position into offensive to bag two points before flipping the Kyrgyz to bag another couple of points.
With the momentum firmly behind her, Sakshi continued to pile on the pressure before drawing level with another two-pointer.
With just seconds remaining in the bout, the Indian pulled off another takedown to take the lead and make sure of the win.
Earlier, Sakshi had crashed out of contention for the gold medal after a one-sided 2-9 loss to Valeria in the quarter-finals.
Kaori Icho of Japan won the gold medal in the category while Russia’s Valeria Koblova took the silver.
Eight-time African champion Marwa Amri of Tunisia took home the other bronze medal in the category.
Sakshi’s medal capped another day of heartbreaks for India including an unfortunate injury to Vinesh in the women’s 48kg Freestyle category that forced her out of the competition.