The 2014 Asian Games held in Incheon, South Korea, have two Indian names among others, coming in the forefront. One Mary Kom, who became the first Indian woman boxer to win a gold medal in 51 kg boxing category and the other Sarita Devi who refused to accept her bronze medal in boxing light weight category. We congratulate both the ladies for the stupendous performance in boxing championship. While Mary Kom is a known name now, not many of us may be aware of Sarita Devi, who is also from Manipur, a national boxing champion, who has won gold medal in World championship and was awarded Arjuna award for her achievements.
If anyone has kept a careful track on the boxing bouts, it was clearly evident that it was Sarita Devi who was the clear-cut winner in the match. She had shown an aggressive and powerful boxing bout against her rival Jina Park from South Korea, in which Park barely managed to stay in the fight. But it was strange that when the name of the winner was announced, it was not Sarita Devi but Jina Park with a bloodied nose, which showed a clear favouritism to the host country. The 32-year old Sarita Devi protested outside the ring when her name was announced in the bronze category.
The Indian boxing contingent lodged a complaint and also asked for a review of Sarita’s performance in the boxing game at a USD fee of 500 which would not be refunded if the original decision was maintained. However, the appeal was rejected later.
The actual controversial turn of events took place when she refused her bronze medal at the prize distribution ceremony, which was not taken well by the sports fraternity. She was visibly upset when the prize distribution ceremony was taking place and she remained calm. But the moment her name was announced, she climbed on the podium and she could not control herself and burst out crying. She refused to wear the bronze medal. But after much pleading from the official, she held the medal in her hand.
While cheering and slogans were going on and the national anthem played at the background, she got down from the podium and walked over to Park Jina and put the medal around her neck. In a state of astonishment, Jina pleaded with Sarita Devi to take her medal back. Eventually she relented and kept the medal in her hands and left it on the podium once the ceremony was over.
Sarita said, “I felt that I should not accept the medal because I deserved to be in the final. I don’t mind if they take any action against me. But I did not feel like accepting the medal and so I did that.” The All India Boxing Association (AIBA) presently does not have any provision in their rules and regulations as to what action can be taken for such an incident. Maybe this is the first time that a player has refused medal.
Not a rational decision
May be, some may say that this is not sportsmanspirit and she should have accepted the medal gracefully. This wasn’t a rational decision that she made. It was an emotional decision. For some it may be bad, for some it may be right. She made this decision because she felt that she was not given her due as a player, she was a clear cut winner and should have been in the semi-finals but for reasons only known to the judges panel, she was not chosen as the winner. She had worked tirelessly, leaving her 1 year-old baby, to win a medal. But, she was not aware that she had to fight a corrupt system and not the player.
While it is very difficult to say whether Sarita Devi did the right thing or not by refusing the medal, we can only say that she is a winner all the way and she does not need a medal to prove this. We all Indians are proud of you. This time, in Asian Games 2014, India has given us a chance to remember two great women players of the country, who have made the country proud – Mary Kom and Sarita Devi. We salute you both. One for giving us the gold medal and the other for taking a stand against the wrong done to her that surely proves that she doesn’t want money or award, she just wants to win.