India woke up to a lovely, lovely news this morning. Wrestler Sakshi Malik defeated Kyrgyzstan's Aisuluu Tynybekova in Women's freesyle 58Kg wrestling, claiming India's first medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
The 23-year-old from Haryana is the first woman wrestler from India to bag an Olympic medal and only fourth female athlete from the country to climb to the podium at the biggest sporting event in the world.
Naturally, Indians are overjoyed.
What an elation in the middle of the night!! Difficult to sleep with so much adrenaline in my system after a nail biting match #SakshiMalik
— Heena sidhu (@HeenaSidhu10) August 17, 2016
— President of India (@RashtrapatiBhvn) August 18, 2016
On this very auspicious day of Raksha Bandhan, Sakshi Malik, a daughter of India, wins a Bronze & makes all of us very proud. #Rio2016
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 18, 2016
— ANI (@ANI_news) August 18, 2016
While wishes are pouring in from everywhere, all that Malik can think of right now are aloo parathas. "I want to go home and eat aloo parathas. I had to maintain a strict diet and they would never serve those in the Olympics."
Right after the match, when her mother called to ask her if she was tired, the 23-year-old said that "nobody feels tired after winning a medal for country".
Her teary-eyed father was left speechless when he saw his daughter win the match on his television, sitting at his home in Rohtak.
Inspiring is not a good enough word for Sakshi's story.
Born in a village called Mokhra, near Rohtak, in Haryana, where the child sex ratio is 800, much lower than Haryana's average of 834, Sakshi and her family had to fight against all odds.
She took up wrestling when she was just 11-years-old.
Coach Ishwar Singh Dahiya still remembers the day when a young Sakshi accompanied her mother to the Sir Chotu Ram Stadium Wrestling Academy in Rohtak.
She had to train with the boys and fight them in the akhara, in a region where the sport was 'not for girls'.
"She has given befitting reply to people who say that women cannot be wrestlers," her mother said.
By the age of 18, Sakshi had tasted victory at junior-level competitions. She won a Bronze at the 2010 Junior World Championships in the 59-kg category.
However, she first came to the international limelight after taking home the Gold at the Dave Schultz International Wrestling Tournament (60-kg). In 2014, her professional international career began with a silver medal in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, courtesy two 4-0 bouts.
Last year in May, she won the bronze at the Senior Asian Wrestling Championships in Doha.
"Meri 12 saal ki tapasya safal hui (My 12 years' of hard work have borne fruit)," a beaming Sakshi told the flashing cameras right after her win at the Olympics.
Sakshi earned the dramatic win after falling behind 0-5 following the first period in the do-or-die bout. The Indian turned the tables on the Kyrgyzstan wrestler in the dying seconds of the bout as Tynybekova was in complete command inmost part of the clash.
"Aakhir tak dimag mein tha medal tera hai (till the last moment, my heart said the medal was mine)," she said.
Sakshi had lost 2-9 in the quarter-finals to Russia's Valeriia Koblova in the fifth bout of the day before getting a second chance in repechage when her conqueror reached the final.
And, she won it and how.
Coach Ishwar Singh Dahiya also remembers the protests from locals when he took Sakshi under his wing. Today, she has made the entire village proud.
"The players supported that and all the girls would train along with boys," he told Indian Express.
"Whenever Sakshi would win, the boys here would also bring sweets for Sakshi and we all celebrated this," he said.
They will celebrate in the same way for her Olympic win. "All the boys and girls wrestlers will be elated," said the coach.
The Olympic win is set to make the Rohtak girl richer by more than Rs 2.5 crore as of now, as plenty of cash rewards are set to come her away.
Haryana government has promised a bumper bonus of Rs 2 crore for bronze. In addition to this, they have also promised land in the state. Railways had promised a cash reward of Rs 50 lakh. The national Olympic body had also announced, that for the first time, they would award Rs 20 lakh for bronze.
"When she had first come to the academy, she would feel nervous initially but her fear disappeared with training and she won medals at the Asian sub-junior level," her coach said.
In 2007, Coach Dahiya requested the then Wrestling federation of India president GS Mandher to include Sakshi in the camp. But, it wasn't possible then.
But, soon she started to train along with senior wrestlers including Geeta Phogat.
"This made her confident and whenever she used to come to Rohtak, she would share stories about senior camp," he said.
At the Carioca Arena 2 stadium in Rio De Janerio, Sakshi Malik transcended everything--the social stereotypes, the taboos and her own limits.
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