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With self-belief back, Sakshi and Bajrang landed golden punches

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Standing on the podium with the National anthem playing was a dream come true, says the ‘Comeback Queen’

Standing on the podium with the National anthem playing was a dream come true, says the ‘Comeback Queen’

The Birmingham Commonwealth Games provided two champion wrestlers a platform to regain their self-belief.

While Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik lived up to her reputation as ‘Comeback Queen’ to win her maiden gold medal in 62kg, World and Olympics medallist Bajrang Punia overcame a low phase of his career to retain his title in 65kg.

Goosebumps

The gold medal refreshed 29-year-old Sakshi’s memory of her Rio 2016 success. “This is the biggest medal for me since the Olympics (bronze). I never got to hold the Tri-colour after that. Standing on the podium with the National anthem playing was a dream come true. I got goosebumps due to the massive crowd support,” said Sakshi at a virtual press conference on Saturday.

Sakshi said she had tough times in the last two years. “I was training well, I was good at power and speed, but my motivation was low. I worked on that and didn’t let myself down. The (CWG) trials was a big challenge. I had lost to my opponents before and was low on confidence. Winning the trials boosted my confidence.

“I thought this would be the last chance as no one knows whether wrestling would be there in the Commonwealth Games.”

Recounting her fightback in the final against Canadian Ana Gonzalez, Sakshi said, “She took the point due to my mistake. But I attacked in the last three minutes and won.

“The double-leg attack is my favourite and has helped me in difficult times. I have done it innumerable times for 18 years. You don’t think before doing it,” said Sakshi, adding she would go step-by-step for the 2024 Olympics.

Bajrang used the competition to rediscover his attacking game. “People used to say they did not see the attacking Bajrang of late. I tried to play my natural game and have succeeded. I will work on my weaknesses to become better,” said Bajrang.

The 28-year-old said the difference between his two Commonwealth Games golds was that in 2018 he was not an Olympics medallist and he had no injury prior to the Games. “It is never easy in a power sport because you don’t know how the other person is going to perform.”

Bajrang said he felt a lot different during his Birmingham performance. “I will try to improve my game for the World championships in September,” said Bajrang.

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