Rio De Janeiro: India’s bronze medal-winning wrestler Sakshi Malik spoke in an interview about her third-place finish in the 58 kg freestyle category. “I never doubted myself even though I was trailing in the beginning," she said after defeating Kyrgyzstan’s Aisuluu Tynybekova.

What was going through your mind before the bronze medal match?

I was determined to break this jinx, that India was not winning any medals at Rio. I was checking social media and there was so much talk going on that we haven’t been able to open our account. Before my bout I had told my coach, Kuldeep Singh, that I will win a medal for the country.

What makes this even more special is the fact that I won it on Raksha Bandhan. Normally, sisters get gifts from brothers on this day, but today I gifted something to my brother.

You were behind on points but turned it around. In all your matches you have done this?

I never doubted myself even though I was trailing in the beginning. I had this self belief that I will get an inch and I will convert it into a mile. In any case, if you look at my bouts I have been unfazed by initial blows.

Who played the most important role in you becoming a wrestler?

Of course my parents and my brother to start with. They were the ones who said I should be in wrestling, and always supported me despite a lot of protest in our society. I had to practice with boys and it was a big taboo in my growing-up years.

Who is your wrestling hero?

Who else but Sushil Kumar! He is the icon and the trailblazer. We used to just dream about meeting him and talking to him. Yogeshwar Dutt was a massive influence as well.

Have you ever spoken to Sushil Kumar?

No I haven’t, but I would like to say through you that Sushil sir, you are the one who gave us the belief that at the world stage Indian wrestlers are not inferior to anyone and can do anything. This is my guru dakshina for him as well since all the wrestlers in the country idolize him regardless of whether they are men or women.

Even Amitabh Bachchan tweeted on your win.

It’s so unreal. I could never imagine that Mr. Bachchan would praise me.

You are just the fourth Indian woman to win an Olympic medal.

It’s of course amazing. But I am really sad for my friend Vinesh Phogat who got injured. She could have won as well. I hope this will inspire many others as Saina Nehwal and Mary Kom have influenced me.You have to believe in yourself. I come from a very ordinary family but I had dreamt of a medal. I know it was full of challenges but to win an Olympic medal in less than 12 minutes, I had to go through a tapasya of 12 years.

Those scenes of you celebrating is being played over and over again.

You won’t believe it, but I had visualized it before bout. I had discussed this with my coach before. Even when I was down he kept reminding me about the celebration and the flag and that was the ultimate motivation which drove me to go for the kill in the dying stages of the bout. I will never forget the gesture of my coach who took me on his shoulders and ran around like a father does to celebrate with his daughter.

Will more women get into wrestling now? Will there be less social opposition you think?

I hope so. It’s already changing and I want to say please support the girls as you do boys.

Vimal Kumar is the author of Sachin: Cricketer Of The Century and The Cricket Fanatic’s Essential Guide.

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