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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mary Kon wins Gold .......... Sarita Devi robbed of one - apathy of officials...

M C Mary Kom today became the first Indian woman boxer to clinch a gold medal at the Asian Games after she came from behind to beat Kazakhstan's Zhaina Shekerbekova in the flyweight (51KG) summit clash. The lone Indian boxer in action on Wednesday, Mary Kom defeated Shekerbekova 2-0 in a evenly-contested battle.  The five-time world champion and Olympic bronze-medallist, who had won a bronze when women boxers made their debut at the 2010 Asiad, shifted gears with ease to come out triumphant in the final analysis.

Men are generally strong and hide their emotions well ! ~ remember the sad end to Andre Agassi's 20-year career  beaten by German qualifier Benjamin Becker [no relative to more famous Boris Becker] at the US Open.  Agassi was clearly affected by the chronic back injury which hastened his decision to retire. Backed by a fiercely patriotic crowd, Agassi battled courageously but Becker's power proved too much. The man thought as a legend was shattered and was in tears. He was crying on the ground and later on screen too…… ~ this cry is incomparable and every one of us reading this would only feel sorry for the injustice meted out to her.  She is real champion and real winner. It is the Manipuri boxer Sarita Devi who was robbed off medal.  Her husband, former footballer Thoiba Singh, was furious and shouted obscenities at the ring officials, saying it was a clear case of cheating.

The way officials act is most condemnable. Firstpost reports that barely 15 minutes after Mongolian boxer Tugstsogt Nyambayar was controversially ousted from the men’s bantamweight category, their entire contingent decided to take the International Boxing Association (AIBA) head on. Like Sarita Devi, Nyambayar lost to a South Korean opponent after a controversial decision.  When the  bout was awarded to  to Sangmyeong Ham, immediately, the Mongolian officials swung into action. Their chef de mission, Badmaanyambu Baterdene reached the venue within minutes, took up the issue with the organisers and led the protest. While the Mongolian officials were swift to act, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) office-bearers chose not to involve themselves in Sarita’s case. Sarita did not even have the $500 required to lodge a protest with AIBA. Her husband had to depend on Sarita’s coach Lenin Meitei and an Indian journalist to pay the amount. Pathetic. 

The boxer, who felt she was a victim of a ‘pre-determined’ bout, waited for almost an hour for assistance as she and her husband Thoiba Singh tried to work out a way to submit an official protest.  Indian Express reports that although senior IOA officials and deputy chef de mission were present at the venue, none offered assistance.

And today, Sarita Devi responded emotionally.  Firstpost reports that Sarita came into the auditorium after the gold medal bout in  57-60 kg (Lightweight) category between Park Jina (KOR) and Junhua Yin (CHN) came to an end. 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. 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. 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.

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.  Sarita is quoted as saying : "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. The hurt for sure, 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. We all know that Sarita Devi And Devendro Singh deserved better. We all know they deserved to be in the final/semi-final and were betrayed by the decisions of the bumbling judges. We all also know that the rules stated that the decision of the judges was final -- it could not be appealed against.

But what we did not know is that while Sarita Devi and her husband were crying their hearts out -- the Indian officials were looking to find the quickest way to exit. Their strategy seems to be simple: "Exit at the first sign of trouble." So really in the aftermath of the 'fixing' incident, there is just one question that really needs to be asked: Can the officials who refused to help Sarita or Devendro be suspended pending an inquiry? Can they be sacked if found to have shirked their duties? Can they be banned from going on any such 'vacation' again? The IOA was more than happy to pay a $10,000 fine when they withdrew the rugby team but they couldn't cough up the $500 dollars to help a deserving athlete mount an appeal against a clearly wrong decision. The athletes job is to go out and give his/her absolute best in competition. The officials job is to ensure that all the logistics and other requests are taken care of. So when an official goes missing in their time of need, what is one supposed to make of it?

One feels extremely sorry for Sarita and sad plight of officialdom. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.
1st Oct 2014.

PS : largely reproduced from Firstpost moved by the sad plight of Sarita Devi.

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