Khashaba Jhadhav: Unrecognised Olympic medal winner(COUNTDOWN)(reissue)
By Ramu Sharma, Indo-Asian News Service
New Delhi, July 23 (IANS) The first Indian to win an individual medal at the Olympics, Khashaba Jhadhav is a name quite unknown and unrecognised in the country. His forte was wrestling and he won a bronze in the bantamweight class at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.
He had started his journey for the medal from his village of Goleshwar in Karad sub-district near Satara in Maharashtra. He returned there after winning the medal and, after a grand reception, went back to the shelter of oblivion, no one caring or bothering about him.
This was in a year when the media in the country was still in its infancy and an Olympic medal-winning performance was not given much thought to after the initial reaction.
Jhadhav was resurrected years later when television entered Indian life and performances in international sport had gained importance.
Today, more people know about Jhadhav then in the days he won the medal. Much more has been written about him and his travails 50 years and more after his achievement, but even this does not seem to be enough as he is still largely unrecognised.
Not that Jhadhav ever got anything out of his medal. He did manage to get into the police department but stayed without promotion for years. It was only after much persuasion from his colleagues that Jhadhav was appointed an assistant commissioner of police in June 1982, just six months before he retired.
He died two years later in a motorcycle accident on the highway leading to Karad.
The Akhil Bharatiya Khashaba Jhadhav Wrestling Tournament instituted in his memory, a sports ground in the police premises along with the adjacent lane, also named after him, are the only things remaining in Karad to commemorate the memory of one of India's finest wrestlers, the first one to achieve international recognition.
During his lifetime and at the time when he needed financial assistance to go to Helsinki, there was no help forthcoming from government sources, including Morarji Desai, the then chief minister of Bombay, as the area that comprises Maharashtra and Gujarat was then known. It was his principal, Sharad Khardikar of Rajaram College, who mortgaged his home for Rs.7,000 to help his former student make the trip to Helsinki.
It was no wonder that when Jhadhav came back with the medal, he handed over the entire collection from a specially staged wrestling match to his principal to enable him to reclaim the house that had been pledged to a moneylender.
Jhadhav represented India in two Olympics, the first in London in 1948, where he met with little success. The Maharaja of Kolhapur had funded that trip. Then came the journey to Helsinki, where, despite difficulties in adjusting to the mat surface - Indian wrestlers always fought in mud at home and it was not till the 1960s that mats became popular in the country - Jhadhav managed strike a bronze.
India had to wait for another 44 years for its second individual medal, won by Leander Paes in the tennis event of the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
--Indo-Asian News Service