INCHEON, South Korea (AFP) – Celebrated Indian women’s boxer Mary Kom won her first Asian Games gold Wednesday but a team-mate sensationally refused to accept her bronze medal in a row over judging standards.
Five-time world champion Kom, 31, won a split decision against Kazakhstan’s Zhaina Shekerbekova to be crowned flyweight champion.
But attention focused on Sarita Devi after she refused her lightweight bronze medal and tried to hang it around the neck of the South Korean she lost to in the semi-finals.
Devi’s highly controversial defeat to Park Ji-Na on Tuesday had caused chaotic scenes with her husband scuffling with security and launching an expletives-laden tirade.
On Wednesday, Devi burst into tears as she walked to the podium with her arms folded and her head down.
As she was presented with the bronze she held up her hands and said she would not accept it. Twice officials tried to put it round her neck but she would not comply.
After the other medals had been awarded, Devi stepped off the podium, took the bronze from the official and went to shake silver medallist Park’s hand.
As Park gave a traditional Korean bow, Devi put the bronze round the bemused fighter’s neck.
“I said, ‘This is for you and all Korea, because you only deserve a bronze,’” Devi told AFP afterwards.
“It was a protest for all the sportsmen and women of the world against injustice in sport.”
A spokesman told AFP that the Incheon Asian Games Organising Committee members present had been “offended” by Devi’s gesture.
“If she wanted to refuse the medal she should have not come to the ceremony,” he said.
The ceremony stole the focus from Kom’s achievement minutes earlier in winning Asian Games gold at flyweight after only taking bronze in 2010 and at the 2012 Olympics.
Kom, the subject of Bollywood biopic “Unbreakable”, had a tough battle against the fast Shekerbekova, but just did enough in the final two rounds to win on a split decision.