The curious case of Sarita Devi
Rajkumar Jenson *
Laishram Sarita being welcomed at her home town of Mayang Imphal on Oct 4 2014 after her return from 17 Asian Games :: Pix - Bijen Laishram
The results that every Indian have been waiting for, is finally there. All the ifs and buts can be put to bed, for now at least. Boxing's governing body AIBA has announced that they will punish severely Sarita Devi for refusing to accept her bronze medal at the recently concluded Asian Games. But why is this? Let's turn back the clock a bit to remind ourselves what happened.
It was September 30, 2014 and the former world amateur lightweight boxing champion was fighting for a place in the gold medal bout of the 60-Kg weight class boxing at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea against home favourite Park Ji Na. The Manipuri girl dominated the bout so much so that when the final bell rang every Indian fans had the results in the back of their mind and wore gleaming smiles.
This was until the plot took a complete U-turn when the judges gave the Korean a 3-0 victory, making everyone utterly spellbound. It was reminiscent of a pretty cliché moment taken straight out of a sports drama film wherein the result goes in favour of the undeserving antagonist, giving the protagonist enough motivation to go for the kill in the rematch.
Unfortunately for Sarita that was the finale of the movie. Aghast at the judges' decision, she complained and even borrowed money from a journalist to do that. What a shame. But what led to AIBA's decision is not for this, but for the one that is to follow. She took the role of the script writer and added the climax to the drama.
Refusing to accept her bronze medal during the medals ceremony, Sarita gave it to Park, leaving the Korean boxer completely perplexed. This infuriated the boxing association leading to their decision to suspend Sarita and other Indian officials. All these happen at the big events due to the emotions and enormity of the stage.
Remember Zinedine Zidane head-butting Marco Materazzi during the final of the 2006 FIFA World Cup? These uncontrolled, overwhelming emotions are there when the stakes are high, really high.
What she has done may not be a sporting gesture and it has even reached an extent where the AIBA president CK Wu was quoted as saying "She has damaged her own country, India has been damaged".
But what are the Indian Olympic Association and the Sports Authorities doing?
The country's Sports Minister said "She was saddened by the news (Sarita's suspension)". Is that enough? Will that sympathetic quote make AIBA change their decision? Apart from responding few questions, why can't they get behind their own sportsperson?
The Mongolian boxing team threatened to withdraw from the games when their boxer Tugstsogt Nyambayr lost a controversial bout against another South Korean opponent and even had a sit in protest.
Not long ago, BCCI was taking everything in their hands in fighting a case against the England Cricket Board after Ravindra Jadeja and James Anderson's spat. If the cricket board can do that, then why can't other sporting bodies do that?
Does the Indian Sports authority or even the India Government really care about anything apart from cricket? In such a huge country where raw sporting talents are not hard to find, will the authorities take everything casually yet still get all the plaudits when someone wins some sporting event?
Today it is Sarita Devi, and tomorrow someone else will come. Will that someone be made the scapegoat again for the decision made by the judges or will someone be brave enough to protest against these decisions?
If so, who will be doing that but more importantly, when? As a sports enthusiast, I pray that this happens and soon.
* Rajkumar Jenson wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on November 16 , 2014.
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