Distraught after losing her controversial semifinal bout, Indian boxer L Sarita Devi stunned officials and spectators by refusing to accept the bronze medal, which is now in the custody of organisers.
The lightweight (60kg) boxer was in disbelief on Tuesday when she lost against home favourite Jina Park, who ended up as the silver-medallist. Sarita was clearly the better of the two pugilists but the judges thought otherwise.
The Indian subsequently also lost an appeal against the judges’ decision and tearfully made her way to the medal ceremony on Wednesday.
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Crying bitterly on the podium, Sarita first refused to wear the medal before handing it over to Park after sharing an emotional hug with the home boxer.
The former Asian and world champion then left the ceremony. Park, visibly rattled by the turn of events, left the medal on the podium and made her exit.
Sarita appeared to be a clear winner in the bout on Tuesday, dominating the proceedings with such ferocity that Park barely managed to stand the assault. But much to the shock of the Indian contingent and the spectators, the judges awarded the bout to Park.
A sobbing Sarita later told reporters that she had to do what she did at the medal ceremony to continue with her boxing career or else it would have stayed in her mind.
“It’s not that I did not want to accept the medal. I accepted it and then gave it back to the Koreans. I had to do this to continue with my boxing career or the memory of this incident would have stayed on in my mind. I would now go back and hug my infant child,” she said.
She was ready to accept the consequences of her actions but also accused the Indian officialdom of being uncaring in the whole episode.
“I am prepared for any consequences. Not one Indian official came to us and consoled or even spoke to us,” she said.