Female wrestlers Anshu Malik and Sonam Malik are the newfound stars for a country full of sports fans who wait patiently for their next big sporting superstar. The duo qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after their splendid show at the recently concluded Asian Olympic Wrestling Qualifiers.
There is a lot common between the two grapplers, Anshu and Sonam, than just their similar last names. Born just eight months apart, both the girls hail from the northern Indian state of Haryana and started their wrestling career at the same time. In fact, they started off competing in the same weight division before they mutually decided to shift their weight class so that they do not hinder each other's progress.
Born into a wrestling-crazy family, taking up the sport was never a problem for both Anshu and Sonam. While Anshu's father was an international wrestler himself, Sonam's fathers and cousins were well-known for their wrestling prowess in the local circuit.
They might be very close friends now, but they were fierce rivals during their early days. The competition was between the duo was so fiery that their fathers almost got into a fight after the duo's first-ever bout against each other.
According to a report in ESPN, in their very first bout against each other, sometime in 2016, Sonam beat Anshu in a very closely fought bout leading to heated arguments between their fathers during a school level tournament.
This continued the next time they faced off as well during state cadet championships, where Anshu got the better of Sonam. The competition was so cut-to-throat that Sonam's father alleged Anshu had cheated!
The duo became friends later the same year when they had to travel to a national camp without their fathers accompanying them. As both of them were first-timers at the camp, they had to share a room, and it has been a smooth sail since then.
Anshu and Sonam rise to the top has been so indistinguishable that even the tournaments they have won in their short career are the same. It is as if their career is interlaced with each other.
They have won junior national tournaments together in the same year and were crowned Senior National Champions in their respective weight divisions during their debut earlier this year.
In fact, Sonam's first-ever international medal was a gold medal which she won 2017 World Cadets Championships; Anshu won the gold that year in her weight division. Both of them went on to clinch the bronze medal at the World Cadets in 2018 as well.
Their qualification to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, too, was no different. While Anshu qualified first for the Olympics, becoming the youngest Indian woman wrestler to qualify for the Games, Sonam followed the suit just minutes later whilst breaking her best friend's newly set record.
Starting off as rivals who would have done anything to get the better of the other, Anshu and Sonam have grown into friends who enjoy each other's success like their own.
Looking at their career graph, one would surely not mind yet another identical result for the duo at Tokyo; one where the nation can witness both Anshu and Sonam at the podium draped in the tricolour and a medal around their neck.