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Geeta-slayer Sakshi keen to wrestle for Olympic quota

Geeta-slayer Sakshi keen to wrestle for Olympic quota

Sakshi, who beat Geeta at the trials for the Olympic qualifying last week, wants to win the Olympic quota place for the country, in Astana, Kazakhstan, next month.

Haryana wrestler Sakshi Malik got the tag of a promising player quite early in her career when she won a bronze medal at the 2010 Junior World Championships, but after graduating to senior ranks, she played second fiddle to her much illustrious senior Geeta Phogat for most of the time.

Geeta, the first woman wrestler in India to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2010, time and again proved her worth, kept on winning medals, including a bronze at the 2012 Words, and didn’t let any junior overtake her.

Even as Geeta was keeping pace with present, Sakshi accelerated her efforts and moved past her senior, on two occasions in as many previous months - the most recent at the trials for the Asia Olympic Qualifying team last week in Lucknow.

Playing in a much-hyped 58kg-category bout against Geeta, Sakshi created a significant upset as she beat her senior 8-1 in a lopsided bout. Brimmed with unbridled joy, Sakshi was on cloud nine after her victory and was thinking about a precursor bout she fought at the Pro Wrestling League (PWL) in January, where she upset Geeta for the first time to get the psychological edge.

On a personal note, it was a bigul of Sakshi’s march over an illustrious senior, but it was not even the job half done as her main challenge will be to win an Olympic quota place for country through the Asian Olympic Qualifying event in Astana, Kazakhstan, from March 18-20.

“I am extremely happy that I beat a wrestler as acclaimed as Geeta. She is a senior and has a brilliant career record. I was a bit nervous ahead of the trials and had told myself to give my best. I just did that and won the trials convincingly,” Sakshi told IBNLive.

Sakshi said that the victory at PWL over Geeta was a shot in her arm and she capitalised on it at the trials. “I was playing for eventual champions Mumbai Garuda at the PWL. I won two and lost as many bouts, but victory over Geeta was significant because it was the first time I beat her and it gave me confidence that I could do it again. The same victory was at the back of my mind when I faced her at the trials,” said the JSW-sponsored wrestler.

With a win over a wrestler of Geeta’s stature, Sakshi can most likely seal an Olympic quota, but the competition in a qualifying event is a different ballgame altogether than the trials. The hungry wrestlers, desperate to seal Olympic places, will be ready with their paraphernalia to demolish any level of challenge. Only two spots in 58kg category are up for grabs at the qualifying in Astana and the fact that only one Asian wrestler has sealed the Olympic place intensifies the competition manifold.

Sakshi, whose best performance at the continental level has been a bonze at the 2015 Asian Championships, said, “Competition is bound to be there. It’s an Olympic year and everyone wants to be at Rio, all will give their best. But all I can do is to prepare at my level best. The real competition will be known only after I step on the mat but as of now I am thinking how I can give my 100 per cent.”

In wrestling, a wrestler wins the Olympic quota place for country. It means even if Sakshi qualifies for the Olympics, it will be the national federation’s prerogative who it selects for the Rio Games in 58kg. But given she beat Geeta at trials, Sakshi will most likely represent the country provided she wins the quota place as well.

The 23-year-old Rohtak girl said that her stint with the PWL helped her watch top wrestlers from close quarters and she learnt from them the skills she was keen to implement at qualifying and forthcoming competitions.

“The PWL was my opportunity to learn how top wrestlers prepare themselves. You can improve yourself just by practicing with them. I believe the experience I gained will help me play better in Astana and future events,” she signed off.