Celebrated boxer Mary Kom won her first Asian Games gold Wednesday but team-mate Sarita Devi sensationally refused to accept her bronze medal in a day of mixed emotions for India.
Five-time world champion Kom, 31, won a split decision against Kazakhstan's Zhaina Shekerbekova to be crowned flyweight champion, but all attention soon shifted to Sarita Devi after she refused her lightweight bronze medal and tried to hang it around the neck of South Korean boxer Park Jina she lost to in the semi-finals.
India's Sarita Devi gestures towards silver medallist South Korea's Park Jina as the latter tries to persuade Devi to accept her bronze medal during the medal ceremony for the women’s light 60kg division boxing at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. (AP Photo)
"I said, 'This is for you and all Korea, because you only deserve a bronze,'" Devi told AFP afterwards. "It was a protest for all the sportsmen and women of the world against injustice in sport."
A spokesperson told AFP that the Incheon Asian Games Organising Committee members present had been "offended" by Devi's gesture. "If she wanted to refuse the medal she should have not come to the ceremony," he said.
Sarita was protesting against Tuesday's match in which she was declared the loser against home favourite Park Jina, despite being clearly the better boxer in the ring.
During the one-sided fight, Sarita simply pummelled her rival with her flurry of quicksilver blows - at times raining four to her rival's one.
But shockingly, Park was not given a single standing count by the Algerian referee Hammadi Yakoub Kheira despite looking rocked back by Sarita's blows to her chin. In the end, all three ringside judges ruled in favour of the Korean by identical 39-37 margins.
Read: Dodgy judging knocks out Sarita, Devendro
After the controversial defeat, Sarita also lost her appeal against the verdict and there were chaotic scenes with her husband scuffling with security and launching an expletives-laden tirade.
Read: Fight over boxing decisions, Sarita cries foul
Sarita's protest at the ceremony stole the focus from Mary Kom's achievement minutes earlier in winning Asian Games gold at flyweight after only taking bronze in 2010 and at the 2012 Olympics.
Fighting a tough battle against her fast Kazakh rival, Mary Kom preferred to keep a distance and invited Shekerbekova to launch the first attack. The Kazakh, however, did not fall for the bait and back-peddled smoothly to outwit the Indian in the opening two minutes.
However, never the one to give up easily, Mary Kom reworked her strategy and stunned Shekerbekova with her aggression in the second round. Combining her hooks with uppercuts to Shekerbekova's torso, Mary Kom drew level, albeit on a split decision.
Read: Mary Kom wins historic gold
The Manipuri mother-of-three, who has been christened 'Magnificent Mary' by the International Boxing Association for her unprecedented feats, began to dominate in the third round and dictated the pace of the proceedings.
Shekerbekova could not come to grips with the tactical shift in Mary Kom's game and could only respond by holding her opponent frequently, for which the referee cautioned her.