Indian boxer Sarita Devi broke down on the podium during the Asian Games medal ceremony for the lightweight 57-60 kg category in Incheon on Wednesday, refusing to wear the bronze medal awarded to her around her neck. She accepted the medal in her hand and wiped her tears holding it, before handing it to South Korean silver medalist Ji Na Park, who had defeated Sarita in a controversial bout on Tuesday.
The 32-year-old Sarita later said she would continue to compete as she wants to set an example for future boxers, but “this is not acceptable.” Sarita lost on points against Park in a bout where she was the dominant boxer.
An emotional Sarita slammed India’s boxing officials too. On Tuesday, she felt ignored because “she was from the North-east.” On Wednesday, soon after the medal ceremony drama, Sarita said: “It has been 24 hours and not one official has come to speak with me and ask me if I am fine. They just come here to take photos with medallists and nothing else.”
The judges’s decision to award the semifinal clash to Park on points had left Sarita stunned. She stood in the middle of the ring in disbelief as the judges almost unanimously awarded the fight to the Korean. The Indian corner was angry and agitated even as Sarita’s husband Thoiba Singh protested vociferously.
The final decision in the bout – with two judges ruling against Sarita – was booed by fans. India later lodged an official protest with the Amateur International Boxing Association’s technical jury team. But the protest was rejected.
Sarita’s husband, who got into a scuffle with security officials, accused the Koreans of “stealing” the medal. “It was fixed. The decision was uncivilized,” Thoiba said. Sarita broke down and later said, “I kept my child away from me to train hard. When a player trains hard and something controversial like this happens, it is very sad.”
Fellow boxer Mary Kom, who won a historic gold on Wednesday, supported Sarita. “Of course she (Park) won because she is Korean,” she said.
Sarita had won a silver in the Commonwealth Games earlier this year.