Asian Games 2014: L Sarita Devi, who controversially refused to accept her boxing bronze medal during the presentation ceremony at the Asian Games, has appealed to her fans and the Indian government to stand by her in her hour of need.
“Indians should support me for my actions,” she told CNN-IBN. “I have done it for my country.”
Sarita appeared to have her won lightweight semi-final bout against Jina Park yesterday, but the judges handed Park the victory by 39 points to 37. The decision caused the crowd to boo loudly. Today, Sarita stood on the podium and refused to accept her bronze medal. She then took the medal and put it around Park’s neck (the South Korean lost the final and was to receive the silver medal).
An emotional Sarita broke down during her conversation with CNN-IBN and said that she simply could not accept the medal.
“When I went to the medal ceremony I broke down because I wanted to see the Indian national flag go up but when I saw it down, I couldn’t control myself. It wasn’t my medal. I didn’t want to take the medal to India. I wanted to leave the sadness behind in South Korea.”
Sarita’s husband, Thoiba Singh, told the news channel that they decided to make a public protest because that was the only way to draw attention to the injustice done to Sarita.
“I told her before coming to the podium, whatever you feel like doing or saying for the sake of sports, for the sake of Indian sports in particular, just do it,” he said.
“Show the world you are not going to bow down to those disgraceful things.
She pointed out that only an athlete can understand the sacrifices they make in their pursuit of excellence. In her case, she was coming off a two-year break during which she gave birth to her first child. Sarita’s weight had swelled to 85 kg after her pregnancy and she had to shed 25 kg just to make her fighting weight.
“I stayed away from my family to practice. My two-year-old son does not know me,” she said between sobs. “I have sacrificed for my country, whatever I did, I did it for my country and other players so that they don’t go through the same thing again.”
“Yesterday I was so sad. My heart was broken.”
Following the incident, AIBA has decided to launch disciplinary action against Sarita, who could face a lengthy international ban.
India’s Sports Minister, Sarbananda Sonowal, also speaking to CNN-IBN, said the ministry had asked the Indian Olympic Association for a full report of the incident.
“The ministry will always fight for the interest of the players,” Sonowal said.