Priya Malik wins gold at world cadet wrestling in Budapest
A day after Mirabai Chanu won silver in 49kg weightlifting to open India’s mark at the Tokyo Olympics, the news of teenage wrestler Priya Malik’s triumph at the World Cadet Wrestling Championships in Budapest elated Indians. The elation was such that some even mistook the Haryana wrestler’s feat as an Olympics medal with social media swarmed with congratulatory messages.
Priya herself was surprised, before people realised and congratulated her for the world cadet gold.
“I also noticed people have congratulated me on social media thinking I have won gold at the Olympics. I hope this comes true in the next Olympics in France (2024). I will work hard to qualify for the next Olympics and represent India,” said Priya from the Budapest airport.
Though Priya won on July 22, the news came out only on Sunday.
The 16-year-old clinched the women’s 73 kg title defeating Kseniya Patapovich of Belarus 5-0 in the final. “I was confident of beating her in the final,” the class XII student said. She won 10-0 in the first round against Milla Andelic (Croatia) and beat Veronika Nyikos (Hungary) easily in the quarter-finals. She then dominated Marilla Akulincheva (Russia) in the semi-final.
Priya is keenly following the Olympics.
“Hats off to Mirabai didi for making India proud; hoping for more medals for India, especially from wrestlers,” said Priya, who idolises top medal hope Vinesh Phogat and took up the sport after watching the success of Anshu Malik, who is also a contender at the Games.
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“Anshu didi is from my village. My grandfather (Prithvi Singh) and then my father (Jai Bhagwan) always encouraged me to learn the sport. I enrolled in the popular Choudhary Bharat Singh Memorial School in Nidani in 2016 after seeing Anshu didi do well for India,” said Priya, whose father is a Kargil war veteran. She hails from Nidani village in Haryana’s Jind district where wrestling is very popular.
Anshu will compete in the 57kg category and Vinesh in 53kg at the Olympics.
“We’ve been training so many in our school. Like Anshu inspiring many, Priya will now be a role model. Female wrestlers in Nidani have become perfect examples for aspiring sportspersons,” said her coach Jagdish, who has been training wrestlers in Nidani since 2014. The centre plans a warm welcome for Priya.
The youngster has been a consistent winner. In 2019, she won gold at the Khelo India Games in Pune and in the New Delhi National School Games. Last year too she won two titles, at the national cadet championships and the school games.
“I quit the army in 2017 so that I could be home and help Priya during her training. My father trained me and my brother. I represented the Services team while my brother is a qualified wrestling coach in the army. My wife and I do farming now and look after Priya’s needs,” said Jai Bhagwan, 40, who retired as Hawaldar after 18 years in the army.
Congratulatory messages poured in on the social media. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar congratulated her.