10:40 am - Tuesday November 10, 2015

What exactly happened? How Sarita Devi refused her boxing bronze medal

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Sarita Devi

The Asian Games have taken a controversial turn after India’s boxer Sarita Devi refused to accept her bronze medal at the prize giving ceremony of the 57-60 kg (Lightweight) category.

Sarita came into the auditorium after the gold medal bout between Park Jina (KOR) and Junhua Yin (CHN) came to an end. The Chinese was a deserving winner.

The four boxers gathered around the podium — waiting patiently. At this point, Sarita seemed composed. She looked like she had been crying all night but she wasn’t crying at that point.

However, she couldn’t hold back when she climbed on the podium and burst out crying. She waved at her fans — who were all chanting her name. Then as the official approached her with the bronze medal, she refused to allow him to put the medal around her neck.

Instead, after some pleading from the official — she simply held the medal in her hand. Her tears were flowing profusely by this point. The crowd egging her on all this while — some cheers, some slogans.

Then, as the Chinese national anthem started to play… Sarita got off the podium and walked over to Park Jina — the Korean who emerged victorious in their semi-final bout — and put the bronze medal around Jina’s neck.

The Korean was initially too shocked to react. As were the rest of the people in the ring. The Chinese athlete was just trying to keep a straight face as chaos broke around her.

After putting the medal around the Korean’s neck, Sarita went and stood back on the podium. This time, the Korean followed her and pleaded with her to take her medal back. Sarita — held Park Jina’s face in her hands and tenderly refused. She eventually relented and kept the medal in her hands.

Then, as she was leaving the ring — she left her medal on the podium. She wanted none of this.

An official later picked up the medal for safe keeping.

After the controversy, 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 AIBA, at present, has no provision in their rules as to what action can be initiated for such an incident.

There are some who might want to go into the rights and wrongs of Sarita’s actions but this wasn’t a rational decision. This was an emotional decision made by someone who felt wronged; who felt robbed and who at 32 may never fight at the highest level again.

And the hurt will not go away easily. But if words could help — then in our eyes, Sarita doesn’t need a medal. She is a winner all the way.

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