January 7, 2017 7:38:19 pm
It was another performance that had the crowd on it’s feet. There were chants of her name even before she came up on the mat. Sakshi Malik says that she was nervous about her first bout after the Rio Olympics. But all that was just “momentarily.”
Five months back, Sakshi went on a spree of comeback wins in her bouts at the Olympics which ultimately helped her finish on the podium with a bronze medal. She won her matches in Rio even after trailing in most of the them. But Friday was different for her. Neither was she under pressure of a Olympics nor of winning a medal for the country. Sakshi steamrolled her opponent Pooja Dhanda to win her first bout after the Rio Games. She not only the bout but she did it in style, winning by technical superiority.
“I was nervous before my bout as it was after a long time I was back on the mat. It is always a nice feeling to wrestle. After the Olympics I had gained a lot of confidence as there were so many top class wrestlers in Rio. I learnt a lot,” Sakshi said.
Though the result of her bout was in her favour, the way she wrestled in New Delhi on Friday was far from how she did in Rio. As soon as the bout began, Sakshi gave no chance to her opponent from the Jaipur team. Pooja, returning to the mat after an injury lay-off of one-and-a-half years, was clearly on the defensive right from the start and that gave Sakshi her first point of the bout. The first period was turning out to be a dampener for the crowd until Sakshi pulled off her favourite move.
Like in Rio, Sakshi pulled off the double leg attack and scored two points with the takedown and soon after, she had Pooja in the gut wrench, scoring four points in the same movement. She led by eight points at the end of the first period.
And before it went to the last minute of the bout, Sakshi pulled off another attack on Pooja followed by two gut wrenches to lead 14-0. By one more takedown, she finished the bout. The Pro Wrestling League has tweaked the rule of technical superiority by making it compulsory for a wrestler to take 15-point lead to win by tech fall instead of Olympic rule of 10 points. As the clock hit 5:32, the crowd chants of “Sakshi, Sakshi” became louder. But she calmly went to her team dugout.
After months of felicitations and functions in India post her bronze medal, Sakshi had little time for practice before the league. But she says it was a thing that she was worried about before the league. “After so many days when one goes to the mat, there is a lot to do and one has to adapt to it. I was prepared for this bout,” she said.
Throughout her bout, Sakshi dominated her opponent, getting in better positions and holding the centre of the mat. She looked far stronger than Pooja and her movements were quick and clinical. Even Pooja got a first hand experience of it. While she agreed that she could not match Sakshi’s strength, it her opponent’s experience and practice that she found really difficult to beat.
“I like to counter attack but today it was Sakshi who did that. She never gave me a chance. Also I am wrestling a bit under-weight as this is my first tournament after by ACL surgery on my left leg. But she has far more experience than me,” she says.
This was the fourth time in their careers that Pooja and Sakshi wrestled each other. Back when both were cadet wrestlers, Pooja and Sakshi had wrestled with the former coming out on top. One more time in a local dangal in Bawana, Sakshi got the better of Pooja. The third time was a selection trial for Asian Championships where Sakshi beat Pooja in the final few seconds of the bout. A week after the trails, Pooja suffered the ACL injury during the national camp.
Sakshi’s win on Friday could not help her team Delhi to win their first tie in the league as they had already lost it after losing four of their five matches. But being the captain, she thinks it is time they come back harder.
“This was a experience and we would like to win next time. We still have four matches and the results will change. We come back for another match on Sunday and hopefully we will have a different result,” she said.
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