Sakshi’s Olympic hopes nearly over after defeat

Updated on Feb 26, 2020 11:37 PM IST

Sakshi’s one last hope of making it to Tokyo will depend on Sonam failing at Asian qualifying event, scheduled in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan from March 27 to 29.

Sonam pins down Rio bronze medallist Sakshi during national trials for Asian Qualifiers.(Deepak Gupta/HT)
Sonam pins down Rio bronze medallist Sakshi during national trials for Asian Qualifiers.(Deepak Gupta/HT)
Lucknow | By

The 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik’s dream of making it to the Tokyo Games appeared virtually over on Wednesday after she lost to young Sonam Malik for the second time in a row since January in the trials for the 62kg category.

Sonam, the 18-year-old twice cadet world champion, was trailing 1-2 in the first 37 seconds of the final three-minute session at the trials, but stunned her seasoned rival with her favourite technique of flipping over her opponent to win by fall, at Sports Authority of India’s regional centre here. Sakshi’s one last hope of making it to Tokyo will depend on Sonam failing at Asian qualifying event, scheduled in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan from March 27 to 29.

If Sonam makes it, there would be no trials in the 62 kg category, but otherwise the Wrestling Federation of India could consider holding another trials for the world qualifying event in April.

“Sonam has a better chance of making the cut at Kyrgyzstan though she failed to win a medal at the last week’s Asian Wrestling Championships at New Delhi. She (Sonam) lost to far superior rivals in Delhi and going by her progress, I am sure of her winning a ticket to Olympics,” a coach with the Indian team said on condition of anonymity.

The big multipurpose hall was hushed into silence as none expected such a turn around. Sakshi had looked too quick as she defeated Seema (8-2) in the first bout and then Mansi (10-0) in the semi-final, only to be caught out by the fast-moving Sonam.

The teenager managed one point in the first half of the three-minute bout in the final against the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games silver medallist, who tried hard to grab Sonam’s left leg, but in vain. In a quick change of technique, Sakshi garnered two points at the start of the second half, but Sonam’s ability to hold her nerves in the crucial moments made the difference.

Besides her coach Ajmer and father Rajender, Sonam had young wrestler Divya Kakran on her side. The trio kept urging Sonam to use a technique described as ‘danda’, which saw her grab Sakshi by her neck with both hands and floor her.

Getting her tired

“I didn’t care much about the lead as I knew that Sakshi didi was getting tired, and I waited for the right moment to make my move,” an elated Sonam said. “From the day I made it to the national camp here almost two years back, I have kept an eye on Sakshi’s technique and style, and every time tried to learn from her by watching her moves.

“She (Sakshi) has always been a big inspiration and after beating her at the trials here last month, I was quite sure of beating her again today,” said Sonam, who was confident she will qualify at next month’s event in Bishkek.

“I was sure of making to the qualifying event by doing well as the Asian Championships, but I had some superior opponents. But even the losses there didn’t dampen my spirit,” she said. “I will ask Sakshi didi for tips to succeed at the qualifying event.”

Coach Ajmer was delighted with Sonam’s display of skills. “Though she was trailing in the second half, I was sure of her winning. The way she used the ‘danda’ technique in the crucial moment was something really amazing for me also.

Youngest, the best

“I knew Sonam was youngest among those in the trials, but I kept her telling to believe in herself and in her technique. She preserved her energy for the last shot, and that made all the difference,” said Ajmer.

Sonam defeated Radhika (5-1) in the first bout and outplayed Asian Championships 59kg gold medallist Sarita Mor (3-1) in the semi-final. In all, nine wrestlers appeared in the 62kg trials, including 2018 world championships bronze medallist Pooja Dhanda, who lost to Sarita 2-3 in her first bout. The federation had allowed a two-kg grace in its search for the best wrestler in the division. In 76 kg category, Kiran made it to the qualifying event, outplaying Gursharan 4-2 in the final after beating Sudesh 7-0 in the first bout.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sharad Deep is a versatile sports journalist, who loves writing on cricket and Olympic sport. He has played cricket at the university level and has been writing for Hindustan Times since 1997.

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