India boxer Sarita Devi has ‘apologised’ for her refusal to accept the bronze at the medal ceremony and for putting it around her Korean opponent’s neck, a senior member of the Indian contingent said on Thursday. However, it still isn’t clear if she would accept the bronze medal.
India’s Chef de Mission Adille Sumariwalla met senior Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) officials on Thursday morning and tried to convince them not to take harsh step against the boxer. Senior IOA officials have also begun back-channel talks with the International Boxing Association (AIBA), after it is learnt that they are mulling to enforce a life-ban on Sarita.
Sarita’s highly controversial defeat to Park Ji-Na on Tuesday had caused chaotic scenes with her husband scuffling with security and launching an expletives-laden tirade at the match officials.
On Wednesday, Sarita burst into tears as she walked to the podium with her arms folded and head down. She then refused to accept her medal and instead walked up to Ji-Na and put it round her neck, much to the Korean boxer’s embarrassment.
A source involved in the talks said Sarita met Sumariwalla on Thursday morning and is believed to have tendered a written apology. However, it could not be independently confirmed. The OCA will be handing over Sarita’s medal to Sumariwalla on Friday. “The Indian delegation attended the OCA working group hearing this morning and expressed regret over what happened at the medal ceremony. We told them it had happened in an emotional moment. The OCA has reinstated Sarita Devi as the bronze medal winner. The medal will come to us tomorrow (Friday) morning,” the source said.
India have also asked for a review of the bout by an independent panel appointed by OCA. Meanwhile, it is learnt that OCA may let off Sarita merely with a warning. However, AIBA is keen to take a drastic step.
Deputy secretary general of the Incheon Asian Games organising committee Son Cheon-taik criticised Sarita’s actions. “She needs to respect the official ruling and show sportsmanship. Her actions were not sportsman-like,” Son said. “The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) is working on the review of the medal, whether or not to give it to her or confiscate it. So they are deciding what to do with it.”