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With the Tokyo Olympics fast approaching, Firstpost takes a quick look at Indian wrestler Sonam Malik, and charts her journey towards securing Olympic qualification

Sonam’s journey to Tokyo qualification however, was anything but smooth. Twitter @KirenRijiju

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Editor’s Note: For five years now, Indian athletes have been dreaming to make up for the disappointment of a two-medal haul in Rio. The span has been extraordinary, with COVID-19 having thrown their preparations – and the Olympics itself – off gear. However, in true Olympic spirit, the country’s finest sportspersons have battled form and uncertainty to put their best foot forward in what promises to be a Games like none other. In our latest series, we track the last two years’ performances of our athletes to give you a ready guide to their form leading into the biggest sporting spectacle of the world.

With the Tokyo Olympics fast approaching, Firstpost takes a quick look at Indian wrestler Sonam Malik, and charts her journey towards securing Olympic qualification:

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Until the 2021 Asian Wrestling Olympic Qualifiers that took place in Almaty earlier this year, established name Vinesh Phogat was the only Indian female wrestler who had qualified for the Tokyo Games. The Qualifiers would go on to add two more to that list, Haryana’s Sonam Malik being one of them.

Sonam, who hails from a family of wrestlers not very different from the Phogats, had experienced a steady rise through the age groups over the years before making the 62kg weight category her own after a series of victories over 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist and senior wrestler Sakshi Malik.

Injury and fighting through pain

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Sonam’s journey to Tokyo qualification however, was anything but smooth. The 19-year-old was forced to miss the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series in March earlier this year after an injury sustained while sparring against Sakshi, which left her with five stitches on her head.

What’s more, Sonam, who trains under Ajmer Malik at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Academy in Madina (Sonepat district), had to fight through pain during her run in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers. After starting on a strong note with victories over China’s Jia Long and Taipei’s Hsin Ping Pai, she hit a roadblock in the semi-final against Kazakhstan’s Ayaulym Kassymova, trailing 0-6 while also struggling with knee issues.

Sonam, though, heroically fought back from the near hopeless situation, ignoring the physical troubles and reeling off nine points in a row to earn her ticket to the Japanese capital. The dodgy knee though forced her to miss the 62kg final against Long, resulting in a silver medal against her name.

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Not long after did Sonam, along with fellow grappler Anshu Malik (57kg)— who she is said to be close friends with — and four other Tokyo-bound athletes get included by the Sports Ministry in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), giving the youngster an added motivation ahead of her maiden Games.

Click here to check out form guides for the rest of the Indian contingent at the Tokyo Olympics 2020. 

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