Friendship not lost on wrestling mat for Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik

Sakshi Malik reveals that she still keeps in touch with Kyrgyzstan’s Aisuluu Tynybekova, whom she had beaten to win bronze at Rio 2016.

By Rahul Venkat

Can arch-rivals still be good friends and keep the competitive edge going? Sakshi Malik certainly thinks so.

Malik feels that being buddies and hanging out with opponents off the mat only inspires them to do better during bouts.

This has always been the case for her, even on the biggest stage of them all at the Rio Olympics.

Aisuluu Tynybekova, who I won the bronze medal against at the Olympics, is a very good friend. We always chat whenever we meet during tournaments and also keep in touch on Instagram,” Sakshi Malik said on the Instagram Live show ‘Inspire’, hosted by former Indian luger Shiva Keshavan.

“It does not matter that Aisuluu lost such an important match to me. In fact, I lost to her in the semi-finals of the Asian Games.”

Kyrgyzstan’s Tynybekova, who went on to win the 62kg gold at the 2018 Asian Games, had beaten Sakshi Malik 3-1 in the semi-finals.

“But after stepping out of the mat, we were back to our usual friendly selves,” said Sakshi.

The only female Indian wrestler to win an Olympic medal, Sakshi Malik also talked about an incident where an opponent helped tie her hair right before they stepped out for their bout.

“Female Indian wrestlers are actually troubled by their hair a lot during matches because we are not quite used to braids,” Sakshi explained. 

“I remember a tournament where my opponent was actually tying my hair before our bout!” exclaimed Sakshi Malik. 

“I do not think there can be a more apt example than that. A lot of the younger girls who wrestle in my weight category in India are also good friends with me,” the 27-year-old Sakshi pointed out. 

“So, the notion that rivals cannot be friends is untrue. For me, the competition ends once I step out of the mat,” Sakshi concluded.