Lonely Planet Writer

The Olympic athletes being rewarded with free trips after earning podium places

Sakshi Malik is the first Indian athlete to bring home a medal from Rio – a bronze in wrestling – fulfilling a top goal for Olympians from around the world. But Malik told reporters that when she first got into the sport she wanted to wrestle, but also to fly on an airplane.

Sakshi Malik of India celebrates victory against Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan during their Women's Freestyle 58 kg Bronze Medal Final at the Carioca Arena 2 on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Sakshi Malik  celebrates victory against Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan during their Women’s Freestyle 58 kg Bronze Medal Final.  Image by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

The 23-year-old has earned praise after winning the medal in the women’s wrestling 58kg category and becoming the first person from  India to get a coveted spot on the podium.

Since she noted that she’s interested in travel in addition to her sporting achievements, Air India has offered her and a companion return business class flights between any two destinations on Air India’s network, which includes destinations in Asia, the Pacific, Europe, Africa and North America, to celebrate her achievement.

In a letter, which was posted on India Today, the airline writes the “the entire Air India family is indeed proud that you have won the first medal for the country in the Rio Olympics. Indeed your victory has made all of us very happy”. Malik, who hails from Haryana, has no shortage of medals from her wrestling triumphs: she was a silver medallist at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and a bronze medallist at the 2015 Asian Championship.

But Malik is not the only Olympian whose athletic success will lead to a free holiday. American gymnast Simone Biles – who has rapidly become a star after winning four gold medals and one bronze – was offered a trip to Belize by the Belize Tourism Board on Twitter. Biles holds citizenship in both the US and Belize, and tweeted her desire to go back and visit her “second home”.