Last week, Kirti Saxena (MechE 2T2+PEY) represented Canada at the 2022 U23 World Wrestling Championships in Pontevedra, Spain. The event marked Saxena’s return to competitive wrestling after sustaining a serious injury to her lower body earlier this year.
“Six months ago, I wasn’t physically or mentally in the game — I was in so much pain,” Saxena says. “There were some people who said I wouldn’t be able to walk all summer, and most of the statistics out there backed up that opinion, but I wanted to create my own odds.”
While on her commute from the University of Toronto to her training gym in April 2022, the train she was on pulled to a stop and a fellow passenger accidentally spilled hot tea all over her lap. By the time Saxena arrived at her destination and was able to assess her injuries she was suffering from second and third degree burns on her lower body.
Unable to walk, sit or even lie down without experiencing severe pain, Saxena had to take time to recuperate and postpone both her final exams and training for the wrestling World Championships.
“All I could do was take it day by day, which as an engineering student who likes to do things quickly and efficiently was a real struggle,” she says. “I had to slow right down and start from scratch.”
That meant celebrating the small achievements, like when Saxena was able to stand up or take a few steps, and just keep going.
As Saxena slowly gained back her skin’s elasticity and the ability to move comfortably, she made her return to the mat. To secure her spot at the 2022 U23 World Championships she needed to compete in two international tournaments during the summer. With weeks of intense training and laser-focus, Saxena achieved her goal.
Saxena managed to come back from her injury and is currently ranked #1 in Canada in the U23 Division in Women’s Wrestling at 57kg.
“I’m so grateful to be going to the World Championships,” she says. “It took a lot of work, determination and perseverance and I am proud to be able to compete.”
Saxena’s parents were her biggest cheerleaders during her recovery and rehabilitation. Her father, who was an Olympic wrestler and owns his own high-performance wrestling club in Mississauga, introduced Saxena to the sport. Her natural talent led her to placing first in Canada in her division in ninth grade — from then on, she embraced the sport and placed fifth in the world the following year.
As she continued her wrestling journey, placing in national and world championships, and participating in the 2020 Olympic trials, Saxena also began her post-secondary career as an undergraduate engineering student at U of T.
“I’ve always been drawn to design and academically strong in sciences, combining these two things led me directly to mechanical engineering and it’s a natural fit for me,” she says. “It can be challenging, but as I am in my final year now, I can say with certainty this was the right path for me.”
During her time at U of T Engineering, Saxena has taken on many leadership roles including being the project manager of the University of Toronto Robotics Association (UTRA) design team, a Varsity board representative and the captain of the Varsity wrestling team.
“I’ve always been a very determined person and those two things working together — passion and determination — help me to achieve my goals,” she says.
“Don’t let other people’s opinions limit you. It’s OK to struggle. Embrace the challenge, reach out when you need help and create your own story.”