Rio Olympics: Sporting fraternity hails Sakshi Malik on her historic feat - NEWS SENTRY


Thursday, 18 August 2016

Rio Olympics: Sporting fraternity hails Sakshi Malik on her historic feat

On Thursday, nearly two weeks of frustration, disappointment and hurt at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games came to an end when Sakshi Malik+ became the first woman wrestler from India to bag an Olympic medal, and only the fourth female athlete from the country to stand at the podium at the pinnacle of world sport.

Wish Sakshi Malik - India's first medal winner at Rio
The 23-year-old from Haryana, a silver medallist at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and bronze winner at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, earned a dramatic come-from-behind win over Kyrgysztan's Aisuluu Tynybekova to script history. It is India's 25th medal at the Olympic Games since independence in 1947.
Sakshi+ , who began training when she was 12, now stands as an icon for Indian women's athletes and what makes her story even more remarkable is where she comes from. Her bronze medal is a major victory over sexism in one of India's most conservative states, Haryana.
Sakshi was one of three female wrestlers to qualify for the Rio Olympics, each hailing from the north Indian state where women have long been treated as second-class citizens and 'honour killings' and sex-selective abortions are rife. In the build-up to the Summer Games, Sakshi had recalled in an interview some of the instances when villagers had sniggered and pointed fingers when she wrestled with boys or wore shorts in a state where women are usually covered head-to-toe and confined to their homes.
According to Sakshi, locals used to berate her parents when she was growing up, warning them that their daughter would develop puffed-out cauliflower ears, common among wrestlers, and become undesirable to potential husbands. "It hurt a little and I wondered why people said such mean things, especially when I was so young, and made me doubt myself," she had said.
Haryana is renowned for its male-dominated village councils which control life in the largely farming region, issuing diktats to prevent women defying conservative norms. Marriage outside caste or religion brings punishment including 'honour killings - murder, usually of the woman, for dishonouring her family -- while sex-selective abortions still occur in an area that values boys above girls. Haryana has the worst sex ratio in the country, with 877 women for every 1,000 men, against the national figure of 940, according to the last official census of 2011.\
Like the renowned Phogats - Geeta, Babita and Vinesh+ - Sakshi became a local celebrity after winning silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. "It's so weird to see how people can change so suddenly, how they take interest in me now that I'm rising to the top, yet didn't support me when I was starting out," she once commented of villagers flocking to take selfies and feed her sweets.
In that same interview, she had casually mentioned how without the support of her family, she would probably be married with children by now and with no prospect of a career in sports. "My life is very special compared to my friends'. Some of them study a bit and then do household chores. The married ones are busy taking care of their husbands and babies," said Sakshi.
Now, as only the fourth Indian woman to win an Olympic medal, Sakshi can put off thinking of marriage for a while longer.

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