The state government’s much-delayed plans of building a wrestling centre, named after India’s first Olympic medal winner, Khashaba Jadhav, may finally turn into reality. In a meeting on Monday, state Sports Minister Vinod Tawde announced a Rs 3 crore grant for the wrestling centre. The meeting was also attended by former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, Jadhav’s son Ranjit and a few representatives from Karad. In 1952, Khashaba had created history by winning India its first Olympic medal in an individual sport, when he won the bronze in wrestling. (The hockey team led by Balbir Singh had won India its first gold in the 1948 London Olympics.)
Speaking on the state government’s decision, Ranjit Jadhav said, “A wrestling centre in the memory of my father has been my dream for a long time. It would be a befitting tribute to his contribution in the field of wrestling. In 2009, I had given a piece of land, a little more than an acre, to the district sports office in Karad to build a sports complex. But for years, things didn’t move in the right direction… now that a decision has been taken by the government, I am happy. I have been assured that the centre will be set up within two years.”
Jadhav added that in 2013, though the state government had approved a grant of Rs 1.58 crore for the wrestling centre, there was no response to the tender for the project, even though it was floated twice.
As plans to construct such a centre continued to remain on paper for years, Jadhav finally wrote to the district sports officer, as well as the commissioner of sports and youth department last year, demanding that the land be returned to him. However, his letters to the state government received no response.
Last month, Jadhav wrote to the sports officials again ,and suggested that they could auction his father’s Olympic medal to raise the funds needed for the project. “…Hopefully, the wrestling centre will soon become a reality… better late than never,” added Jadhav.
Some other decisions, to honour Khashaba, were also taken at the meeting headed by Tawde. It was decided to recommend Khashaba’s name for the Padma Shri or Padma Vibhushan award. The government also decided to revive the Khashaba Jadhav Wrestling Championship, which hasn’t been held for the last three years. The Championship will be held in Borivali in Mumbai in December, said Tawde. The state will also approach the Centre to include a chapter on Khashaba’s life in the CBSE syllabus.
Khashaba had begun his training in wrestling under his Dadasaheb in an akhada in Goleshwar, a village in Karad taluka. Two of his teachers, also wrestlers, mentored him and prepared him for state-level and national-level competitions. Three years after his Olympic win, in 1955, Khashaba had joined Maharashtra Police as a sub-inspector.
Although he trained to participate in the 1956 Olympics, he could not do so due to a serious knee injury. Khashaba continued his association with wrestling through bouts at police games and by training police personnel in the sport. He died in 1984 in a road accident.