Beating the odds

India’s 1st woman wrestler to win Olympic medal came from region infamous for “honor killings”

Sakshi Malik (Getty)

Sakshi Malik bagged India’s first medal of the 2016 Olympic games on Thursday, winning bronze in the 58 kg women’s wrestling to become the first female Indian wrestler, and the fourth Indian woman, to win an Olympic medal. Fighting back from a 0-5 deficit against Kyrgyzstan’s Aisuluu Tynybekova, Malik overcame the odds to seal a 8-5 victory.

Malik and the two other women wrestlers on India’s Olympic team are no strangers to adversity. All hail from Haryana, the conservative north Indian state notorious for honor killing and sex-selective abortions — the region has the lowest birth ratio of girls to boys in all of India. Girls were not even allowed to train with boys in Haryana until 2002. Malik, who began training at the age of 12, has said that villagers used to mock and shame her for wrestling with boys or wearing shorts in a region where women were expected to be covered head-to-toe. “It hurt a little and I wondered why people said such mean things, especially when I was so young,” said Malik.

Success however, has changed things for Malik at home. “It’s so weird to see how people can change so suddenly, how they take interest in me now that I’m rising to the top, yet didn’t support me when I was starting out,” Malik said of the villagers who now flock to take pictures with her. Without the support of her family, Malik said, she would never have been able to achieve her goals — instead, she would most likely have been married with kids by now. “My life is very special compared to my friends,” she conceded.

Read the full story at the Times of India.

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