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KD Jadhav wins Bronze in Wrestling -India's first individual Olympic medal
July 23, 1952: Independent India’s first individual Olympics medal came from wrestling when K.D. Jadhav secured a flyweight bronze at Helsinki in 1952.
Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav wrestled his way to the bronze medal in the freestyle (bantamweight, 57kg) category.
After competing in the flyweight category in the 1948 summer Olympics in London, Jadhav featured in bantamweight in Helsinki. He sailed through the first five rounds, winning almost every other bout inside five minutes. Then came a strong test in the form of Japan’s Shohachi Ishii.
It was dubbed the big clash. The bout lasted more than 15 minutes. Jadhav, who was new to the mat and the rules, gave his best but lost by a point. Ishii, a judoka-turned-wrestler, went on to win the gold.
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After the marathon bout, Jadhav was asked to be back on the mat to fight Soviet Union’s Rashid Mammadbeyov. The rules stipulated a rest of at least 30 minutes between bouts, but no Indian official was available to press his case. And Jadhav, exhausted as he was, failed to inspire and Mammadbeyov cashed in on the chance to reach the final.
It was heartbreak for sure, but then, Jadhav’s feat in Helsinki not only helped independent India win its first individual medal, but also put Indian wrestling on the world map.
(Excerpts from an article published in The Hindu in 2016)
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