Two Indian gold contenders — L Sarita Devi and L Devendro Singh — were delivered the knockout blow by judges in the boxing arena on Tuesday that saw dubious scoring in favour of home boxers.
The first blow came in the morning. Sarita, 29, who left Park Jina reeling with furious punches in the 60kg semi-final bout, was stunned and burst into tears after the scorers adjudged the South Korean the winner.
India lodged a protest but it was rejected by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) supervisor David Francis, who pointed to rules that had no provision to challenge the judges.
Sarita, making a comeback after giving birth to a baby boy almost like her better known Manipuri compatriot Mary Kom, and her husband C Thoiba Singh were infuriated. Thoiba rushed to the judges’ bench shouting: “You’ve killed boxing.”
He grabbed Sarita’s arm and tried to enter the ring to protest though the next bout had started. They were stopped by the security personnel, leading to a minor scuffle. Thoiba kept screaming, “What the hell is going on here... Sarita has won and you declare Korea winners.”
“It’s unethical to deprive someone of her due. I’m not sure Sarita will be able to come out of this shock loss ever,” he said later.
In almost a replay, Devendro was denied a place in semi-finals by judges.
The 22-year-old boxer from Imphal out-punched home favourite Shin Jonghun in the 49kg quarterfinal in all the three rounds, only to be deprived by the judges.
India’s Cuban trainer BI Fernandez was blunt. “I wish these judges could be sacked... I suppose the only ones who thought the Korean had won were the judges.”
Chief coach GS Sandhu told HT they had no faith in the system “and will not lodge a complaint over Devendro’s quarterfinal bout”.
The judges were under scrutiny again when Mongolia threatened to pull out its boxing contingent after falling victim to another shocking verdict.
Indian officials were caught napping, though. While Mongolia’s chef de mission rushed to the ring and issued the pullout threat the moment his boxer was affected, senior Indian Olympic Association officials, including secretary-general Rajeev Mehta, didn’t raise a finger despite being present in the hall.
“Today, it seems I wasted two years of my life. I stayed away from my baby and my husband for two years just to concentrate on my boxing. My resolve is broken... I don’t think I will be able to return to the ring soon,” Sarita said. Indian middleweight Vikas Krishan had Monday criticised the scoring system as opaque.
Mary Kom eased into the final but was upset with Sarita’s result. “Of course Park won, because she is Korean,” she told a TV channel. “It’s sad to see such things happen in international boxing. Being a mom, I can understand how she feels right now.”