Anshu Malik won the silver medal at the World wrestling championships in Oslo, Norway on Thursday, thereby etching her name in history books by becoming the first Indian woman to achieve the feat. The 20-year-old put up a strong fight but lost to two-time Olympic medallist Helen Maroulis of the USA in the final.
In an exemplary exhibition of grit and courage, Anshu scripted history at the World wrestling championships despite picking up an ankle injury in the quarterfinals and nursing a previous elbow injury.
As she went past European silver medallist Solomiia Vynnyk of Ukraine in the women’s 57kg semifinals on Wednesday, Anshu booked a place for herself in the annals of Indian wrestling. She had gone one step ahead of five other Indian women – Alka Tomar (2006), Geeta Phogat and Babita Kumari (2012), Pooja Dhanda (2018) and Vinesh Phogat (2019) – who secured bronze medals in the elite event.
Anshu, a cadet World champion and a junior Worlds silver medallist who graduated to the top level nicely, was the third Indian to reach the final of the World championships after 2010 champion Sushil Kumar and 2018 silver medallist Bajrang Punia.
Anshu’s title clash with two-time Olympic medallist Maroulis was another tale of the 20-year-old’s heroism. “In the quarterfinals, she injured her ankle but fought the semifinals after taking painkillers. That’s why she could not reduce her weight last night and did it this morning,” Anshu’s father and a former wrestler Dharamvir Malik told Sportstar.
“After the Olympic loss, I advised her to believe in her karma. Her elbow injury got aggravated in the selection trials. It was a really tough month. Anshu continued to train (under the guidance of her coach Jagdeesh Sheoran at Nidani village in Jind district of Haryana) despite tremendous pain. Her determination helped her,” he added.
In a video message put up by United World Wrestling on Twitter on Wednesday night, Anshu said, “I am extremely delighted. In the Olympics, I could not perform the way I wanted to. I can’t explain how I trained for a month with that (left elbow) injury. I didn’t want to repeat the disappointing performance I put up at the Olympics.”
“I tried to give my 100 percent. Before every bout, I thought this is my last bout – now or never,” said Anshu, the reigning Asian champion.
Indian women’s team’s chief coach Kuldeep Malik hailed Anshu’s feat. “Anshu did good leg defence. Her defence while standing was also good. Her attacks were solid. This performance will give her a lot of confidence for future events, including the Olympics,” he said.