Acclaimed Indian wrestler Sakshi Malik, a bronze medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, declared her retirement in protest of the Wrestling Federation of India’s (WFI) recent leadership change. The move follows allegations of sexual abuse against the ousted president, Brij Bhushan Singh, and the controversial election of his close ally, Sanjay Singh.
Protests and Previous Allegations
Sakshi Malik, a vocal advocate against harassment in Indian sports, led protests earlier in the year, demanding accountability for Singh’s alleged sexual misconduct towards female wrestlers. Charges filed in June accused Singh of harassing six athletes, including a minor, during his tenure as WFI chief.
Sakshi Malik’s Ultimatum
Expressing dissatisfaction with the Singh’s business partner assuming the WFI presidency, Malik, in tears, announced her retirement, emphasizing the need for integrity in sports leadership.
Brij Bhushan Singh’s Denial and Government Inaction
Brij Bhushan Singh, a six-time parliamentarian and BJP member, denied wrongdoing and was relieved of his administrative duties in January. Despite government promises to investigate, the lack of transparency regarding the panel’s findings led to renewed athlete protests in April.
Controversial Election and Sanjay Singh’s Victory
On Thursday, the WFI elected Sanjay Singh to replace Brij Bhushan Singh. Sanjay secured 40 out of 47 votes, defeating Anita Sheoran, a former gold medalist, and a supporter of athletes’ campaigns against abuse allegations.
Sanjay Singh’s Response and UWW’s Silence
Sanjay Singh celebrated his victory, emphasizing “truth over lies,” but refrained from addressing Malik’s retirement. The United World Wrestling (UWW), having suspended the Indian federation over the protests, is yet to comment on the election outcome.
Sakshi Malik: A Trailblazing Journey in Women’s Wrestling
- Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik made history as the first Indian women wrestler to secure a medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics, breaking barriers and serving as a role model for future generations.
- Born on September 3, 1992, in Mokhra village, Rohtak district, Haryana, Sakshi Malik’s journey in wrestling was inspired by her grandfather, Subir Malik, who was also a wrestler.
- Commencing her training under Ishwar Dahiya at the age of 12, Sakshi Malik quickly rose in the wrestling world, earning a silver medal at the 2009 Asian Junior World Championships in the 59kg freestyle category.
- Her success continued with a bronze medal at the 2010 World Junior Championships, showcasing the consistent excellence that defined her wrestling career.
- In 2013, Sakshi Malik secured a bronze at the Commonwealth Championships, paving the way for her participation in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where she claimed a silver medal in the 58kg category.
- Adding to her Commonwealth Games achievements, Sakshi Malik won her second and final medal in the 2018 edition, securing a bronze in the 62kg category.
- Renowned Retirement: Sakshi Malik, acclaimed Indian wrestler and Olympic bronze medalist, announces her retirement.
- Leadership Change Protest: Malik’s decision stems from her protest against the Wrestling Federation of India’s recent leadership change.
- Sexual Abuse Allegations: The move follows allegations of sexual abuse against the ousted WFI president, Brij Bhushan Singh.
- Controversial Election: Sanjay Singh, a close ally of the accused president, is controversially elected as the new Chief of Wrestling Federation of India.
- Athlete Advocacy: Malik’s retirement underscores the ongoing challenges of addressing harassment and discrimination in Indian sports governance, amplifying her role as an advocate for athlete rights.