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The incredible journey of 19-year-old wrestler Sonam Malik to the Tokyo Olympics

Sonam Malik has been one of the most exciting prospects in the world of wrestling and at just the age of 19, she is set to become a world-beater.

Sonam Malik

Sonam Malik, the 19 year old Indian wrestler is a part of the Indian contingent taking part in the Tokyo Olympics 2021. At such a young age, Sonam had risked her whole career by making a choice to compete in the senior level category featuring National stars. Sonam is a national cadet level wrestler who dared to take up the risk of featuring in the senior category to prove her worth in big stage as it might get her injured severely and losing a huge part of her initial or entire career consequentially. But it resulted to be a great success.

The young wrestler hailing from Madina village in Haryana has two gold medals from World cadet championship and a gold medal in National games to her name. In initial stages, Sonam’s dream trained to wrestle with Sakshi Malik, the bronze medalist of 2016 Summer Olympics. The Young cadet from Haryana surprised everyone by outplaying the 28 year old Sakshi Malik in the senior women’s national wrestling championships with scores counting 7-5.

‘We kept cajoling the federation’ – Sonam Malik’s coach Ajmer

Sonam Malik

Sonam’s coach Ajmer told PTI: “After the trials were over and Sonam had earned a berth in the Indian team with a win over Sakshi Malik, WFI president BB Sharan said, ‘It would have been a big mistake if we had not agreed on Sonam’s appearance in the trials’.

Initially the coach had to persuade the Wrestling Federation of India to allow Sonam participate in the Senior level. But WFI doubted for providing allowance for a young cadet with such less exposure compete in high level. Later she was allowed to participate in trials for the Rome Ranking series event in January 2020.

“The WFI and many others had argued that she would get injured since she lacks experience. They said we will jeopardise her career by doing this, but we kept cajoling the federation.”

“We just wanted to assess where she was against these girls but she kept pulling of big performances,” said Ajmer.

Sonam Malik’s dream and preparations in her early days

Sonam Malik

“In 2012, we watched Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt wrestle in Olympics after a training session in this academy. When I saw them on TV, I also made a promise to myself that one day I will also be on TV and people will watch my bouts,” Sonam recollects one of those days at Netaji Subash Chander Bose Sports Academy in Madina

I wanted to win medals, those belts and see the Indian flag going up at the medal ceremony.” said the 19 year old Indian wrestler. “If the coach says you have to run 5 kms, she would do it without complaining. We would often lie to our coach but that we have completed the run but she would never claim unless she has done it,” said Mohit. “She loved competing against the big boys. I never saw fear in her mind. Even if she lost to them, she was never ruffled.”

To this, Sonam says, ”It was more fun beating those sturdy boys. To wrestle against girls was also good but competing against boys was always a good test for me.”

Hard work has been key for Sonam Malik

Sonam Malik after defeating Sakshi Malik

Sonam has been a well disciplined and hardworking wrestler who had ever had a second thought for toiling hard in her preparations. She is a real life Dangal girl who likes to compete with the sturdy boys as she thinks wrestling with them is the real challenge to her capacity.

Coach Ajmer would vouch for her sincerity. “We have to tell her every time that it’s time to stop training. One day I told everyone that all guys have to do 350 sit-ups. When they were done, I said you have to do 150 more. While the others were harried, Sonam quietly started doing and completed the task. She would not never complain about hard work.”

Her coach Ajmer expressed her self confidence and determination till the last minute of the game as the talented grappler makes her more tough for the opponents. She reflected the same in her clash between Rio Olympics bronze medalist, Sakshi who took the initial lead of 10-6 was later found to have lost the match with a four pointer shocking her experienced opponent. She has been exceptional in her career run till now as Sonam has defeated her fancied rival four times in a row.

“I saw her first time in 2017. It was dream to wrestle against her, My coach told me, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I don’t know how I did it but I just gave my all,” she said.

The young wrestler is about to feature in the most prestigious stage of wrestling sport in such a young age. The Tokyo Olympics is only months away starting on July 23, 2021. She still has a long run of her career ahead and Indian fans would definitely hope for her to be the present and future representation of Indian wrestling amidst the World Wrestling fraternity.

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