Sakshi-slayer Sonam ready for Tokyo Olympics qualifier

Ajmer Malik recollects the second final year when he instructed his trainee Sonam Malik that she has a giant combat developing – in opposition to Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik within the nationwide choice trials for the Asian Championships.

“Her face turned pale as if she had seen a ghost,” says coach Ajmer.

Sonam, with two gold medals (2017, 2019) and bronze (2018) at Cadet World Championships had world-beating potential, but she was only a teenage rookie. Ajmer was getting ready her for the 2024 Olympics. Sonam believed she had a number of years left earlier than breaking into the nationwide facet, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Sakshi and Vinesh Phogat. Now the sudden change of plans was baffling for Sonam.

It took lengthy hours of cajoling from Ajmer to make her perceive that she was ready to combat in opposition to one of the best in India. He spent extra time combating Sonam’s case with the Wrestling Federation of India to place her within the trials. “They had a point. Sonam was still 17. She had little experience of even competing in the junior international circuit. It can be devastating for a young girl and there could be chances of injury. But finally they relented,” says Ajmer.

Ajmer, a retired Army subedar and former wrestler, has been coaching Sonam since she was 11. He had put all his retirement advantages to start out the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Sports Academy in Madina village, Sonipat. Ajmer and Sonam’s father Rajendra Malik, additionally a former wrestler, have been buddies however they might by no means understand their goals.

“We had limited means to train. So, we could not do much. I competed in nationals championships from the Army but then I had to stop wrestling after a knee surgery. In Sonam, we saw those dreams again. She is talented and we have the means to take her to the top level,” says Ajmer.

He was getting ready to fast-track Sonam into nationwide reckoning with bouts in opposition to Sakshi. Deep inside, Ajmer had made his calculations. After seeing Sonam was simply beating among the ladies who have been within the nationwide squad, or fringes of nationwide choice, in native competitions, Ajmer believed she was ready.

“There was nothing to lose. I told Sonam, ‘This is not a competition for you. Treat it just like a training session. We are still preparing for the 2024 Olympics.’ I know if she is able to execute what she does in training, she will give her a good fight. I just wanted to test her and it was a great opportunity to know her level,” says Ajmer.

It turned out to be a defining second in Sonam’s fledgling career as she beat the Olympic medallist. Since that trial in January final year, Sonam has met Sakshi on three extra events and crushed her every time, together with within the ultimate of the National Championships this year. She has made a powerful declare many times that she is India’s greatest wrestler within the 62kg class.

Ask her about Sakshi and the fan in her takes over. “Sakshi di is my idol. I noticed her on TV on the Rio Olympics profitable the medal for India. I used to be very nervous within the first bout however my coach sir instructed me ‘you have nothing to lose, just give your best,” says Sonam, 18.

In her first showdown with Sakshi, Sonam made a stunning comeback trailing 10-2. She closed the gap to 10-6 and with seconds left on the clock, she executed a four-point throw to claim victory. There was enough left in her tank to clap and cheer herself on the mat.

In the second selection trials a month later, Sonam was behind by a point (1-2) when she pinned Sakshi down. This year at the national championships, Sonam kept an attacking Sakshi and pulled off a leg trip at a decisive moment to edge past 7-5. And in the trials for Tokyo Olympics qualifiers last month, Sonam’s four-point throw, from 2-4 down, noticed her win 8-7.

She has grown in confidence with each bout in opposition to Sakshi, discovering openings at essential instances, displaying intelligence on the mat and utilizing assaults that has even left her coach Ajmer shocked.

“She has used certain moves that she doesn’t generally use in training, but when she sees an opportunity she is able to execute them, which shows she is thinking on the mat,” says Ajmer.

Every bout with Sakshi has been a studying curve for Sonam.

“Now we know each other so well. Still every time it seems like a new bout. Sakshi di surprised me in the nationals with her attacks but I was able to counter,” says Sonam.

Yet, at the same time as Sonam stalled Sakshi’s goals of a second Olympic medal, the senior wrestler is beneficiant sufficient to assist {the teenager} on the nationwide camp.

“I often spar with her and she tells me if I do something wrong,” says Sonam.

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