Rookie Sonam ends Olympic medallist Sakshi's Tokyo dreams
India’s young wrestling sensation Sonam Malik on Monday continued her winning streak against Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik, defeating the ace wrestler for the fourth successive time in a thriller at the Indian team selection trials here.
Fast emerging as one of India's brightest prospects for Tokyo, Sonam took down Sakshi in a fiercely contested 62kg bout to win 8-7 and book her place in the team for the Asian Olympic qualifiers in April.
So far, India's women wrestlers have secured an Olympic quota in only the 53kg category, won by Vinesh Phogat when she bagged a bronze at the 2019 World Championships.
On Monday, the others who earned a spot for the Olympic qualifiers are Seema (50 Kg), Anshu Malik (57 Kg), and Pooja (76 Kg).
For the 19-year-old former cadet world champion Sonam, who is yet to fully recover from an injury, making the team has been the biggest leap forward in her fledgeling career. With four stitches already on the left side of her head, Sonam was trailing by 1-2 at the end of the first round with Sakshi showing a lot of improvement in her tackling.
But within the very first minute of the second and last round, Sonam levelled the score with quick footwork, before pushing Sakshi on her back for two more points to take the score to 4-2. An experienced Sakshi went on an attacking spree to take the score to 6-4 in her favour.
With only 32 seconds remaining on the clock, Sonam now went on the attack and earned four points. Though Sakshi managed one more point with a defensive technique, she couldn’t catch Sonam, seeing her dreams of representing India at one more Olympics crashing.
“Even after trailing by 4-6 within two minutes of the second round, I was sure of winning as I knew well when to catch Sakshi on the wrong foot,” Sonam said. “From the very start of the bout, I didn’t lose my confidence.”
Before Monday’s win, Sonam had beaten Sakshi at the Senior Nationals at Agra last month for the title, and thrice more at trials, including the selection tournament for the Olympics qualifiers in 2020 before the Games was postponed.
“She wasn’t fully fit today but she was determined for a place in the Indian squad for the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament (April 9-11) and the Asian Championships (April 13-18),” Sonam's coach Ajmer Malik said after the bout. "Today’s win is just a beginning for Sonam."