Rio Olympics 2016: Sakshi Malik becomes first Indian woman wrestler to win medal
Gritty woman wrestler Sakshi Malik ended India's painful wait for a medal at the Rio Olympic Games by clinching the bronze in the 58kg category, pulling off a sensational 8-5 victory over Aisuluu Tynybekova in the play-off bout.
The 23-year-old from Rohtak became only the fourth woman athlete from India to win an Olympic medal as she earned the dramatic win after falling behind 0-5 in the do-or-die bout on Day 12.
Weightlifter Karnam Malleshwari (2000, Sydney), boxer MC Mary Kom (2012, London) and shuttler Saina Nehwal (2012, London) were the only other women players from India to have won a medal in Olympics.
Like in three of the four other bouts earlier in the day, Sakshi won the crucial bout after coming from behind. She, in fact, 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.
Sakshi's victory brought cheers to the Indian contingent that had endured agonising 11 days without a medal.
Sakshi turned the tables on the Kyrgyzstan wrestler in the dying seconds of the bout as Tynybekova was in complete command in most part of the clash.
Tynybekova grabbed Sakshi's leg and quickly earned two points before adding one more for the Indian's passivity.
She repeated her move and successfully bagged two more points to lead 5-0 at the break.
Sakshi could open the scoring only in the second period and got two points after throwing her rival down and out of the mat. She then managed to earn two points again with a similar move to bring down the margin to 4-5.
Thereafter, it was no looking back for the Indian girl and she took the opponent down to level the scores 5-5. But she did not stop there and gained three more points by pinning down the Kyrgyzstan wrestler in the dying moments of the match.
She had earlier stormed into the bronze medal play-off round with a dominating performance in her repechage round, where she thrashed Purevdorjiin Orkhon of Mongolia 12-3. Both the wrestlers matched each other in the first period and the scores were 2-2 at the break.
As Sakshi had reached the quarter-finals, she needed to fight only one repechage round as compared to the other two opponents of the Russian girl, whom she had beaten in the earlier two rounds — pre-quarters and qualification.
Koblova had beaten Luisa Niemesch of Germany in the qualification round before defeating Mongolia's Orkhon in the pre-quarter-finals.
Therefore, in the first repechage round, these two grapplers from Germany and Mongolia faced each other. And the winner of that bout (Mongolian girl) then took on Sakshi in repechage round 2 for a place in the bronze medal play-off.
Sakshi had to get the better of the Mongolian grappler in the repechage round 2 and she did just that to advance to the bronze medal play off.
In the bronze play-off too Sakshi's winning move that got her two points initially was challenged by her Kyrgyztan rival and it was reviewed and she was awarded an extra point by the judges much to her rival's chagrin.
The other bronze was won by Marwa Amri of Tunisia.