Sakshi Malik rules out return to competitive wrestling

Sakshi Malik
Sakshi announced retirement in December last year in a tearful press conference. File photo: Manorama/Josekutty Panackal

New Delhi: Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik on Monday ruled out a return to competitive wrestling, saying the long-standing protest against former national federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for the alleged sexual harassment that has left her mentally tormented.

The 31-year-old Sakshi announced retirement in December last year in a tearful press conference after Brij Bhushan's close aide Sanjay Singh was elected president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI).

She, along with another Olympic-bronze medallist Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat, have been protesting for months, demanding Brij Bhushan's removal and arrest.

"It's been more than a year, there is so much mental pressure and we have been trying to fight in every possible way to make this protest a success, so I'll not be able to continue wrestling," Malik said in a panel discussion on the impact of the #MeToo movement in India.

"I got (Olympic) bronze for India and I want my juniors to get silver and gold. I would love to see each and every girl in India pursuing her dreams," she added.

Sakshi, Bajrang and Vinesh have continued protesting against Brij Bhushan even after his removal as WFI head.

They have alleged that the new federation president is merely a figure-head and Brij Bhushan is actually calling the shots.

Her refusal to come out of retirement rules Sakshi out of this month's national trials for the Olympic qualifiers. Bajrang has already withdrawn, saying he would not participate in any event organised by the Sanjay Singh-led WFI.

The WFI was recently granted a reprieve when the provisional suspension on it was lifted by United World Wrestling (UWW) on the condition that the protesting wrestlers would be invited for all trials and there would be no discrimination.

"Many people have told me to continue but I don't want to wrestle among people like Brij Bhushan. It feels bad when you see him walking around freely. It seems he is still in control," she said.

"I have not just heard about these incidents, I have personally experienced the harassment. I have given up wrestling but youngsters are hoping that our movement will boot out people like Brij Bhushan. We have done everything we could.

"I am once again pleading with government to ensure that people related to him are not allowed into wrestling's administration. I will always stay positive and I am hoping for a positive outcome," she added.

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