Anshu Malik made records in Oslo on Wednesday with her comprehensive 11-0 technical supremacy victory over Solomiia Vynnyk of Ukraine making her the first Indian woman wrestler to make the finals of the World Championships.
Moreover, she’s wearing that cover lightly though. At least that’s the result you’d get if you were personal to the 20-year-old’s post-victory call with her father Dharamvir Malik. The chat was a very brief one. “After I congratulated her, she said she had to get back to training.
She has the final to wrestle in as well so she had to cut weight once again. She’s very focused. She’s not thinking about making the final. She wants to win a gold,” he says.
Besides, Anshu has been a wrestler on a charge after a tough past few months for her. In April, she became one of the youngest Indians to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics April, capping an extraordinary run at the senior level over a year and a half where she would win Asian gold and a silver at the Individual World Cup in Belgrade in 2020.
But just when she had expected to break out, things had not gone her form. Her build-up to the Olympics was marred by an outbreak of COVID-19 in her family. Even as her father fought with a bad period, Anshu had to train out of a hotel room. She had given her best at the Olympics but lost to eventual finalist Iryna Kurachkina and then Valeria Koblova in the repechage.
“She was very upset after the Olympics. She had hoped to return with a medal and she came back empty-handed,” says her father. After a few days as she came to terms with the defeat, she decided on a new challenge. “She said even if I couldn’t win a medal at the Olympics, I’m going to win one at the World Championships,” he says.
Anshu would explain “It would just lock by itself. But there would be more challenges in store for her. She had complicated a long-standing niggle in her left elbow at the Olympics. Anshu would explain. Notwithstanding the possible risk, she decided to fight in the trials to select the Indian team for the World Championships.
Furthermore, in the last round of the competition, that elbow jerked painfully once again, and what was once stress developed into a tear. “The doctors advised her to sit out of the World Championships. But she was determined she would go,” says her father.
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For all her resolve, it was impossible to use her elbow. “For two weeks we only trained her legs. It’s only the last week before the World Championships that we trained her upper body,” says her coach Jagdish Sheoran.
Despite the pain she was under, Anshu says she never considered skipping the World Championships. “It was very difficult. Just after the Olympics, I didn’t have the performance I wanted. I picked up an injury in my elbow. The one month I prepared for the Worlds, only I can say how I trained.
But I just wanted to fulfill what I had missed out on at the Olympics,” she told reporters in Oslo following her semifinal. In Oslo, she says the pain was forgotten. “I wrestled every match as if I was wrestling for the last time. The elbow isn’t all right but once on the mat you don’t even think about it,” she says. Moreover, It is true that the World Championships featured a reduced field, with only Olympic bronze medallists Helen Maroulis of the USA and Evelina Nikolova returning from Tokyo to compete in Oslo. Anshu also got a favorable draw with both Maroulis and Nikolova as well as Japan’s 2019 Junior World Champion Sae Nanjo on the opposite side of the draw.
She got through a tricky opening bout versus current junior world champion Nilufar Raimova with a 15-5 victory by technical perfection, then beat 2020 Asian silver medallist Davaachimeg Erkhembayar 5-1 before moving over 2021 European junior champion Solomiia Vynnyk in the semis.
Besides, she’s already created history, Anshu says she wants to go one level further. She’ll have to get past the USA’s Helen Maroulis though. Although Maroulis won bronze in Tokyo, she’s a gold medallist from Rio and is a two-time world champion.
She says,” The Indian though is going into the contest without any fear. “I’m feeling really good. Whatever mistakes I had made at the Olympics, I’m getting a chance to correct them here. I just wanted to give my 100 percent. I’ve given my 100 percent in all my matches. I wrestled each match as if it was my last. I will fight the final as if I am wrestling my final match also.