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 bruising row over judging standards.
Five-time world champion Kom, 31, won a hard-fought split decision against Kazakhstan’s Zhaina Shekerbekova to be crowned flyweight champion.
But Sarita Devi drew attention after she refused her lightweight bronze medal and then hung it around the neck of the South Korean she controversially lost to in the semi-finals.
Devi’s actions earned her a rebuke from the International Boxing Association, which opened a disciplinary case against her.
“The whole incident looked like a well planned scenario by her and her team, and it is regretful to watch a boxer refuse the medal regardless of what happened in the competition,” AIBA technical delegate David Francis said in a statement.
Devi’s highly contentious defeat to Park Ji-Na on Tuesday, after the Indian dominated the semi-final, 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 a still sobbing anb wailing Devi 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.
Devi then put the bronze round the bemused fighter’s neck before breaking into a smile and turning to wave to Indian supporters in the crowd.
“I said, ‘This is for you and all Korea, because you only deserve a bronze,’” Devi told AFP afterwards.
“Once I put the medal round her neck I felt a great relief. I didn’t want the medal. I’m happy now.
“It was a protest for all the sportsmen and women of the world against injustice in sport. There should be fair play in sport.”
A bewildered Park said she was confused and didn’t know what was happening. “She told me something, but I couldn’t understand,” Park told AFP.
“Devi hung her medal on me. I tried to give the medal back to her, but she didn’t want it.
“I wasn’t sure what to do, so someone told me to leave it on the podium.”
A spokesman told AFP that Incheon Asian Games Organising Committee members present had been “offended” by Devi’s gesture and had to send a volunteer to retrieve the abandoned medal.
“If she wanted to refuse the medal she should have not come to the ceremony,” he said.
Yin Junhua of China beat Park on points a few minutes earlier to take the lightweight gold.
The ceremony stole the focus from Kom’s achievement in winning the Asian Games flyweight gold in the day’s first final 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.
The women’s middleweight gold was won by North Korea’s Jang Un-Hui who took a split decision against China’s Li Qian after a slugfest that could have gone either way.
India’s Rani Pooja and Marina Volnova of Kazakhstan won the bronze medals. Pooja accepted her medal without incident.