Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav: India’s first individual Olympic medal winner face apathy even after death

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on July 20, 2021

For the last 12 years, the memorial in the form of a wrestling stadium is yet to be completed.

Posthumously given Arjuna Award in 2011, the villagers seek the Padma award for him.

Almost every villager in the undescriptive Goleshwar in the Satara district of Maharashtra has a fascinating story to share about their wrestler hero Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav. After all, he was India’s first individual Olympic medal winner. Jadhav won the bronze medal in freestyle wrestling (bantamweight category) at the 1952 Helsinki games, and family and villagers remember how their hero lived an isolated life and died a tragic death without national recognition. Sixty-nine years after Jadhav’s feat, the work of a wrestling stadium as his memorial announced by the government is still incomplete. The repeated demands by villagers to award their hero with Padma award has fallen on deaf ears.

“Life was not easy for him before and after winning the Olympic medal. He was promoted from sub-inspector to deputy superintendent of police only when he was to retire from the service in six months from Mumbai police” recalls Jadhav’s son Ranjit. He added that his father had to participate in exhibition wrestling bouts to pay back his loans.

Khashaba, who had no experience of mat wrestling, won five rounds in the bantamweight section at Helsinki to meet Japan’s Shohachi Ishii and lost by a point in a 15 minutes bout. Ishii later went on to win the gold. Immediately after this match, Jadhav was asked to fight with Soviet Union’s Rashid Mammadbeyov.

As per the rules, Jadhav should have got 30 minutes to break after the bout, but Indian officials who went with the Indian delegation were not present on the spot to present his case. He lost to Mammadbeyov, who reached the final and Jadhav had to content with bronze.

Khashaba met with a road accident and succumbed to injuries in 1984, and the government recognized his contribution only in 2001 by awarding him Arjuna Award posthumously. But even this award came after series of agitations by villagers. Villagers have been demanding Padma Award for Jadhav.

“He deserves the Padma Award but now I am really frustrated demanding it for my father. Since last 12 years work on his memorial in form of a wrestling stadium is going on. Noting has been done yet and what you can see here is work of incomplete compound wall” says Ranjit.

As India hopes to get medals from its players in Tokyo, India’s first individual medal winner awaits due recognition.


Published on July 20, 2021

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