Celebrated woman wrestler Sakshi Malik on Wednesday said Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt's exploits at the Olympics motivated her to go all out for an Olympic medal during 2016 games in Rio.
Sakshi became India's first woman wrestler to win an Olympic medal when she defeated reigning Asian champion Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan 8-5 in the 58kg category, despite trailing 0–5 at one stage, in the repechage medal playoff.
And by her own admission, she had very little idea about the importance of the quadrennial sporting events and it only got a fillip after two-time Olympic medallist Sushil and London Games bronze medallist Yogeshwar's exploits.
"I had been playing sports since I was a child but had little idea about the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games," Sakshi said.
Rio 2016 Olympics Women's Freestyle Wrestling 58kg Bronze Medalist Sakshi Malik
"It was after I got into wrestling and started winning medals at a junior level that the interest in these events started going up. Later on, as Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt started winning medals including at the Olympics, it served as a huge motivation for me," Sakshi said.
Speaking of her Olympic bronze and the iconic moment when her coach Kuldeep Malik took her for a lap of honour around the arena, she said that it took for the achievement to sink in.
"When I reached that bronze medal match, I didn't want to lose at the final hurdle. My coach kept telling me that you are better than her (opponent)."
"It was a tough match and only at the very end was I able to win. I can't explain in words what the feeling of winning was, I didn't know whether to laugh or smile or cry," she said during a wrestling session of E-Pathshala, the athlete and coach education programme of Sports Authority of India conducted in association with the Wrestling Federation of India.
"My coach explained to me that my life will change after this medal but when I grow old, it is a precious memory that will always remain with me. I am very grateful for all the love the country has given me after I won the Olympic bronze."
During her interaction, Sakshi spoke on the importance of these sessions, which was also attended by WFI coach Jagmandar Singh as well as technical officials and referees. Sakshi praised SAI and WFI for the initiative on conducting the online classes.
"This is a very good initiative by SAI and WFI. In these difficult times, when even we can't train properly, with these sessions you can stay at home and learn a lot."