Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav
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Radheshyam Jadhav | TNN
From the archives of "The Times of India" : 2008
Our first individual winner died in poverty
The village of Goleshwar in Karad taluka of Maharashtra gave India its first individual Olympic medal winner — wrestler Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav.
Jadhav won the bronze medal in freestyle wrestling (bantamweight category) at the 1952 Helsinki games. His family and villagers remember how the national hero struggled to survive, despite his feat, and died a tragic death in 1984, without any national or state recognition.
‘‘The entire nation is celebrating Abhinav’s success, but we feel that the celebrations should not be momentary. The nation should keep sporting heroes’ honour intact even when they move out of the arena,’’ says Jadhav’s son, Ranjeet, who rues that despite bringing the first individual Olympic medal to India, his father died in poverty.
‘Jadhav never got his due’
A tinge of gloom pervades tiny village of Goleshwar in Karad taluka of Maharashtra, which gave India its first individual Olympic medal winner — wrestler Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav.
‘‘The only felicitation he received was in Mumbai and a victory procession of 101 bullock carts from Karad city to Goleshwar. Holding degrees in BA and LLB could not help him get jobs to repay the loans he had taken to travel to Helsinki. My father participated in exhibition wrestling bouts,’’ Jadhav’s son, Ranjeet said.
Jadhav later joined the police force and retired at a salary of Rs 1,783. He met with a road accident and succumbed to injuries in 1984. The government recognized his feat only in 2001, and awarded Jadhav the Arjuna Award posthumously, that, too, when Goleshwar villagers took up the matter with the government.
Maruti Adkar, who represented India in wrestling at the 1972 Munich Olympics and is the vice-president of the Pune District Wrestling Association, said, ‘‘The government never took sports seriously at that time. Athletes did not even have proper facilities in those days. Under such conditions, winning an Olympics medal was nothing short of a miracle. Khashaba Jadhav’s effort is any day more valuable than Bindra’s, but the kind of recognition he got during that time was terrible.’’
Ashok Thorat, who is president of the Karad Taluka Athletics Association, said, ‘‘Jadhav never got his dues during his lifetime. At least now after his death, the state or the central government should help build a memorial in form of a training centre for wrestlers in Karad.’’
July 2017: Family auctioning Olympic champion's medal
The family of Khashaba Jadhav, who won India’s first Olympic medal in an individual sport, has put up the medal for auction.
They seek to use the funds to build a wrestling academy in the Olympic champion’s honour.
“The decision to auction the bronze medal is a painful one but we are left with few options as the State government has reneged on its promise to build the academy,” Ranjit Jadhav, son of the famous wrestler, told PTI over phone from Satara district in western Maharashtra.
“In 2009, at a wrestling event in Jalgaon, then State sports minister Dilip Deshmukh had announced that the government would set up a national-level wrestling academy, named after my late father, in Satara,” Mr. Jadhav said.
“After eight years, nothing has materialised. In December 2013, Rs. 1.58 crore were sanctioned for the project. But the project has failed to take shape,” he said.
A 27-year-old Jadhav won a bronze medal in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.
The hockey team led by Balbir Singh had won India its first gold in the 1948 London Olympics.
“My father was an introvert and never marketed his achievements. He was alive till 1984 but the government didn’t felicitate him with an Arjuna Award, which came his way 16 years after his death. Why can’t we honour accomplished people when they are alive?” asked Ranjit.