K. D. JADHAV

Bronze: Wrestling, men’s bantamweight; Helsinki 1952.

K. D. Jadhav... bronze in wrestling, men’s bantamweight; Helsinki 1952.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

India won the men’s hockey gold medal in Helsinki, but Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav’s bronze in wrestling shone brighter.

While it was the sixth straight gold for the hockey team, Jadhav’s was the first individual Olympic medal for India. (Some records credit the Kolkata-born Englishman Norman Pritchard’s athletics medals at the 1900 Olympics in Paris to India, but recent research indicate he represented Great Britain.)

Jadhav, hailing from a family of wrestlers in Goleshwar, a village in Maharashtra, almost missed the 1952 Olympics. Had it not been for a kind gesture from the principal of the college where he had studied, Jadhav would not have been able to raise the funds for his trip to the Finland capital for what would be his second Olympics.

The principal mortgaged his house to help his former student realise his dream. Jadhav’s dream came true on the wrestling mat in Helsinki. For someone who was used to wrestling in the mud back home, he showed astonishing skills to outclass his rivals.

Jadhav died an unsung hero though, in 1984 in a motorcycle accident.