When India’s male wrestlers could not manage a podium finish at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Sakshi Malik sprung a surprise by securing a historic bronze medal in the women’s 58kg category.

Sakshi’s journey – from underdog to unexpected medallist – made her the first woman wrestler from the country to earn Olympic glory and provided a boost to female wrestling, which had so far been headlined by the Phogat sisters.

Sakshi enjoyed a slice of luck when Geeta Phogat unceremoniously forfeited her bronze medal match at the Olympic qualifiers in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, after failing to make the cut for Rio. The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) withdrew Geeta from the Istanbul qualifier in May 2016 for her “indiscipline” and sent Sakshi, who had won an Asian Championships bronze, an Asian Games bronze and a Commonwealth Games silver in 2014, instead.

Sakshi, who had…

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