L Sarita Devi made a more telling point outside the ring than MC Mary Kom did inside it. There was no doubt in anybody’s mind that the judges had cheated her of a final berth in the 60kg category on Tuesday, instead blatantly favouring the host nation’s boxer.
One thought Sarita would have come to terms with the shock decision by Thursday morning. But the loss, it seems, has left a permanent scar on her psyche.
The pent up anger again came to the fore after she hugged and congratulated Mary on winning the gold medal. “Where were these officials who are coming to congratulate Mary yesterday when I was looking for support. In the end none came. They watched me being humiliated from the VIP stands.”
The moment Mary Kom won, a host of top Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) officials crowded around her, congratulating and getting their photographs clicked with her.
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)
“These same officials vanished in thin air. I looked all around for someone who could give me $100 so that I could lodge a protest. I had $400 on me and was falling short by another $100 to register my protest. Someone in the crowd came forward and helped me,” she said even as her husband, Thoiba Singh, put his arms around her to give her strength.
“It’s been 24 hours since I was given the unkindest cut, but no official has come forward till now, not even the two national coaches who are here with the contingent.” Her main grouse was against national coach GS Sandhu, who initially deterred her from lodging a complaint.
“It’s another thing that my complaint was not entertained by the AIBA (world body) observer here, but I am bitter about the fact that for half-an-hour (within which a protest must be lodged) no one came to my rescue. Why do we have all these coaches and officials when no one comes to our rescue? The Mongolians made a big issue when their boxer lost to a Korean, but here I was left to fend for myself.
“Dissolve the federation. The worst would be that we won’t be able to compete in international events. But, then, who wants to compete in the ring with such biased judges sitting on the sidelines who have been bribed,” said Sarita.
Sarita’s husband Thoiba Singh said she was not bothered about any possible ban for her outburst. “At least, the AIBA and the Games organising committee will think 10 times now before giving a wrong judgement. Her protest will help give future generations a level-playing field. Zindegi mein kuch pane ke liye kuch khona padta hai
(You achieve something in life, you have to lose something),” he said.
At the medals ceremony, a weeping Sarita refused to allow the medal to be placed around the neck. She took it in her hand, but left it on the podium. “I have given the medal to Korea. I will go back to India with a clear mind and begin life in the ring afresh,” said Sarita, who felt her maiden Asiad appearance would also be her last.