Wrestler KD Jadhav was the first Indian to win an individual Olympic medal in the 1952 games held at Helsinki-also the only one among the entire lot of the country’s Olympic medalists not to have been conferred with the Padma Awards. For nearly half a century he was India’s forgotten hero.
According to IBN Live, Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav was a national icon in 1952. At the Helsinki Games, the ‘Pocket Dynamo’ became India’s first independent, individual Olympic medalist when he won the freestyle wrestling bronze medal (bantamweight category). It was an achievement that would remain India’s only individual medal for nearly 50 years, until Leander Paes won a bronze in 1996.
In the 1948 London Olympics, Khashaba Dadasaheb had finished sixth in the flyweight category. Four years later, Khashaba Dadasaheb – introduced to wrestling by his father and four elder brothers – overcame official indifferences and financial limitations to reach Helsinki. His travel was sponsored by close friends and well-wishers. By defeating wrestlers from Mexico, Canada and Germany to clinch bronze on July 23, Khashaba Dadasaheb repaid the support. Though the men’s hockey team also returned with a gold medal, the star of the Indian contingent was the wrestler.
All of India’s individual Olympic medalists from 1996 Games onwards have been conferred with Padma Awards. Only Khashaba Dadasaheb who died in 1984 has been left out. A Home Ministry rule on posthumous conferment of Padma Awards says: “The award is normally not conferred posthumously. However, in highly deserving cases, the Government could consider giving an award posthumously if the demise of the person proposed to be honoured has been recent, say within a period of one year preceding the Republic Day on which it is proposed to announce the award.”
Going by this, it would be difficult for Khashaba Dadasaheb to get the honour but his son Ranjit wants his father to be conferred with the Padma Bhushan by changing the rule just like the recent change which allows sportspersons to get Bharat Ratna. “My father brought laurels to the country by winning the bronze medal in 1952 Helsinki Games. He was the first Indian to win an individual Olympic medal but he has been forgotten now. I feel it’s better to throw away the Olympic medal into the Arabian Sea,” Ranjit said, as reported by The Hindu.
Forgotten for years, in 2000 the Indian sports administration finally remembered him when he was awarded the Arjuna Award. In 2011, the government renamed the wrestling venue in the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex in New Delhi as the KD Jadhav Stadium.