A day after biased judging robbed L Sarita Devi of victory and a shot at gold, the inconsolable boxer refused to accept her bronze medal at the presentation ceremony and instead presented it to her South Korean opponent — actions that left her facing a possible suspension.
Support for Sarita — distraught after being declared the loser despite outpunching and outplaying home favourite Park Ji-Na — came from an unexpected quarter. "I am embarrassed by what has happened. She (Sarita) was the winner yesterday," Park later told a media briefing.
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)
But the International Boxing Association (AIBA) took a dim view of Sarita’s behaviour on the podium, opening a disciplinary case against her.
“The whole incident looked like a well-planned scenario by her and her team, and it is regretful to watch a boxer refuse the medal regardless of what happened in the competition,” AIBA technical delegate David Francis said in a statement.
Watch: Sarita Devi rejects the Bronze medal
The 29-year-old former world champion was unconcerned about facing suspension and also accused Indian officials of turning their back on her, saying there was no one to even give her the $100 she needed to make up the $500 fee to lodge an official protest.
About her actions on the podium, she told AFP, “I said, ‘This is for you and all Korea, because you only deserve a bronze’. Once I put the medal round her (Park’s) neck, I felt great relief... It was a protest... against injustice in sport. There should be fair play in sport.”
A bewildered Park said, “She (Sarita) hung her medal on me. I tried to give it back to her, but she didn’t want it. I wasn’t sure what to do, so someone told me to leave it on the podium.”
As the dramatic events threatened to submerge India’s modest overall performance at the Games, the sports ministry sought an urgent response from the Indian Olympic Association, including details of what action it has taken.
Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju, who is from Arunachal Pradesh, said Indian officials should have been more pro-active in lodging a protest while minister of state for northeast region affairs VK Singh, too, said, “Our delegation there should have complained at the right time.”