Anshu Malik is now the first-ever Indian woman to enter the World Wrestling Championship finals.
With a sweeping 11-0 victory on 6 October, the female wrestler beat Ukrainian silver medallist Solomia Vynnyk in the 57 kg category at the 2021 games being held in Oslo.
This makes Anshu the closest wrestler to match Sushil Kumar, who is the only Indian to have ever become a world wrestling champion. Previously, four other women — Geeta Phogat, Babita Phogat, Pooja Dhanda and Vinesh Phogat, came close by winning bronzes.
This win has been a long time coming, and is the culmination of a lot more than a 30-minute match on the mat.
A Life of Excellence
“I always wanted to win medals, have the feel of the podium. Even at school, I wanted to come first,” the 20-year-old had told SportStar, The Hindu. This is a woman who thrived on ambition as a child and excelled even in academics.
However, it wasn’t long before this trait translated into sportsmanship.
Hailing from Nidani, the wrestler’s hub of Haryana became sensitised to wrestling from a young age. Generations of her family had competed in the sport, and she often got to watch her brother, Shubham, battle on the mat. Soon, she was inspired to ace it herself.
In 2012, she convinced her father, Dharamveer Malik, to admit her into Nidani Sports School for training.
While initially, the focus remained on her brother, soon her father became her biggest support while training. Anshu was a quick learner and Dharamveer saw a lot of himself in her.
Dharamveer had represented India in the World Cadet Championships of 1995 but was forced to retire soon after due to a knee injury. His desire remained to see at least one member of his family make it big in the sport, even if he couldn’t.
“Whenever I returned from international competitions without winning a medal, I would always feel dejected. But that was not the case in Anshu’s career. I always told her that a loss also teaches one something,” he had told The Indian Express.
Be it in Lucknow or Sonepat, he would always be there to support his daughter during national training camps for bigger events.
With this abundance of support, the young wrestler went from defeating girls her age to entering national and international competitions. In 2016, she bagged a silver at the Asian Cadet Wrestling Championship, and in 2017, a sparkling gold at the World Cadet Wrestling Championship.
Now four years later, Anshu became the third Indian female wrestler ever to secure the Tokyo Olympics quota — this, despite suffering a back injury during the decisive ranking series held in Rome. However, she was defeated before making it into the finals.
Commenting on the key to her consistent progress, Anshu said she is mentally strong. She said that an unperturbed spirit keeps out negative commentary of the world and the threat of being defeated by stronger rivals.
This is probably why through all hardships, she was able to maintain a consistent training schedule to master her performance and achieve her goals.
She would wake up at 4.30 am every day for practice and never miss a day despite feeling fatigued or stressed. A month before the World Championship, she would purportedly travel 120 km up and down to appear for school examinations, which were being conducted in Rohtak.
“I also suffered from an elbow injury and trained in pain during the last one month or so. But my focus was to achieve what I could not achieve in the Olympics,” she said to United World Wrestling.
Edited by Yoshita Rao
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