2016 Olympics bronze medal winning wrestler Sakshi Malik’s qualification to the 2020 Games has been a story of an ever-narrowing window. After her defeat to 18-year-old Sonam Malik in the trials for the Asian Olympic qualifiers, Sakshi was left with a nervy wait for the results of the tournament, which would decide if she would be able to compete at the last gasp world qualifiers.
All of this however was before the coronavirus pandemic took truly global proportions. Eventually, the Asian qualifiers was shifted twice before being postponed altogether and eventually, the Olympics itself got postponed to July 2021.
India went into a lockdown on March 25 that has been extended twice. Sakshi has been at her home in Rohtak, Haryana all this while, where she fixed an old akhada in her backyard and, in the absence of a sparring partner, has been keeping her shoulders down and training individually.
Sakshi says that she had slacked off in the early days of the lockdown but eventually realised that this could be a long haul. “Yes, in the beginning I took it easy thinking it’s just a 15-day lockdown,” Sakshi told IANS. “I was thinking it’s fine if I have no partners for this amount of time because training is anyhow not going to take place properly.
“But then obviously it kept getting extended and I changed my mindset accordingly. We all have to try and adapt to our situations or else we will all have all sorts of mental problems. So I just changed my mindset according to the situation.”
Life for the 27-year-old has mostly revolved around travel for wrestling over the past 15 years, whether it be for competitions or training camps in the country and abroad. “This is the first time in my life I am experiencing anything like this — being quarantined at home. Life is completely different,” said Sakshi.
“I rarely spent more than 15 days in one place. Either I would be travelling to camps or abroad for training or for tournaments. So yes, negative thoughts do come sometimes. I wonder sometimes if I have gone too far away from wrestling. But then I remember that this situation is not something that only I am facing. Everyone around the world is going through this or worse.”
Sakshi says that she is maintaining her normal routine — training in mornings and evenings and rest during the day.
“As I said, there is no sparring partner so I do individual work on the mat. I have an area where I can do strength-based exercises. I have maintained my usual schedule that was there before and a good part of the day still goes in training, there have been no changes on that front,” she said.
Sakshi also follows advice that women’s foreign coach Andrew Cook sends on Whatsapp. For now, she is not thinking about the risk of injuries whenever wrestling returns after the unusually long break.
“He keeps sending videos of what sort of training we can do on an individual basis. Right after the lockdown they plan to hold a camp with all the girls in one place. The risk of injury is there for everyone. So this situation is not something that we are thinking too much about,” she said.
The United World Wrestling has announced the new tentative qualification schedule with the Asian qualifiers scheduled for March 2021 and the World Qualifiers for April 2021. Sakshi said that there hasn’t been any communication from the Wrestling Federation of India yet on camps or competitions post the lockdown. “There are no plans yet. With the federation the conversation is always about news on training,” she said.