Disheartened Sarita Devi refused to accept bronze because memory of the defeat would have haunted her forever
Incheon: Her senior and better-known teammate, MC Mary Kom might be the one with a biopic on her, but Laishram Sarita Devi's Asian Games story is worthy of one, albeit a tragedy, by itself. A tragedy that is bound to see three episodes — the first two having already been enacted on Tuesday at the fight itself and the next yesterday at the medal's ceremony.
Also read: I wasted two years of my life, says Sarita Devi
India's Sarita Devi in tears on the podium yesterday. Pic/PTI
The third and final episode could come when the officials hit back at Sarita for embarrassing them. The authorities, would no doubt be seething after Sarita Devi's refusal to accept the bronze medal.
Sarita faces probe
With the AIBA opening a disciplinary case against her, Sarita's future is going to be rocky. And be sure, she will not get any help from the Indian officialdom, which has been conspicuous by their absence at crucial junctures of this saga.
Yesterday, a day after the heart-breaking loss when the injustice meted out to her was seeming to recede in public and official memory, Sarita Devi was back at the arena, ostensibly to receive the medal. The four boxers from the 60kg — Sarita's category — were brought around the podium. There was no hint of what was to come.
There she was Sarita Devi — swollen eyes, a puffed up face and shaking hands, all evidence of a sleepless night after being adjudged the 'loser' in a fight she dominated all through. She seemed composed till her name was called and she went up the podium. Then she broke down and burst out crying. As she waved the fans were cheering her and chanting her name. She stood with tears rolling down her cheeks when the official approached her with the bronze medal.
Then the unthinkable happened: Sarita refused to allow him to put the medal around her neck. After some coaxing, she took the medal, but held it in her hand, the tears still not abating. After the rest of the athletes were given their medals, the Chinese national anthem started to play. That's when Sarita got off the podium and walked over to Park Jina — the Korean who was adjudged winner in the fight against her — and put the bronze medal around Jina's neck.
Drama on the podium
After putting the medal around the Korean's neck, Sarita went and stood back on the podium. But now it was the Korean's turn to go to Sarita and plead with her to take her medal back. Sarita half-hugged her and held Park Jina's face in her hands and politely refused, but the Korean persisted. Ultimately Sarita kept the medal in her hands, but left it on the podium as she left the ring.
As hell broke loose and the media and officials ran towards Sarita, the medal lay unattended on the podium. Someone picked it up, put it his pocket and tried to leave. He was later caught by security. 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."
When an Indian official tried to placate Sarita and her husband, the latter started shouting, "Why has no Indian official even come and spoken to us? The officials want to sit on chairs and take photos." The husband, accused the Koreans of "stealing" the medal. Crying, Sarita said, "It has been 24 hours and not one official has come to speak with me and ask me if I am fine.
"It's not that I did not want to accept the medal. I accepted it and then gave it back to the Koreans. I had to do this to continue with my boxing career or the memory of this incident would have stayed on in my mind."