Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav, The first person to bring Olympic glory to India in the individual category in the sport of wrestling
Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav was one of the India’s forgotten hero. He is best known as a wrestler who won a at 1952 summer olympics in Helsinki.
The medal which was given to Jadhav was the first to be won by any Indian. He is the only Indian Olympic medalist to have never received a Padma Award.
Born in a village called Goleshwar Tal in Satara district in Maharashtra, KD Jadhav was the youngest of the five sons of a renowned wrestler Dadasaheb Jadhav. At the age of 8, he defeated the local champion in just 2 minutes and went onto became the undisputed champion of his area.He did his schooling in Tilak High School in Karad district between 1940-1947.He grew up in a household that breathed and lived wrestling.
He also participated in the Quit India Movement of 1942. Providing shelter and a hiding place to the revolutionaries, circulating letters against the British were some of his contributions to the movement.
He stunned the audience in the 1948 Olympics in London by defeating the Australian wrestler in the first few minutes of the bout and came in sixth in the 52 kg flyweight category.
Instead of being discouraged by his sixth place in the London Olympics, he increased the tempo of his preparation for the next Olympics in Helsinki. Khashaba participated in the 125 lb bantamweight category which saw wrestlers from twenty-four countries. Defeating the wrestlers from Canada, Mexico and Germany, he won bronze medal on 23rd July 1952 thereby creating history by becoming the country’s first individual medal winner (Another wrestler and Khashaba’s colleague, Krishnarao Mangave, also participated in the same Olympics in another category but missed the bronze medal by just one point).
Compared to the media attention that India’s recent Olympic medallists received, it was just his fellow villagers who greeted him with a cavalcade of 151 bullock carts, which went in a procession from Karad to his village.
In 1953 Japan wrestlers toured India and he defeated the world champion Unemori and continued his winning streak.
n 1955, he joined the police force as a sub-inspector. He won several competitions held within the Police department. He also performed National duties as a sports instructor. He was honoured by making him a part of the torch run at the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi. However, his feats did not adequately earn him the respect and appreciation he deserved. He served the police force for twenty-seven years and retired as an Asst. Police Commissioner from erstwhile Bombay. In spite of his meritorious service, Khashaba had to fight for his pension – a deplorable lack of rectitude for a person of his stature and respect.
Jadhav died in a tragic motorcycle accident in 1984, and his wife struggled to get any assistance from any quarter. Despite Jadhav’s achievements, it took years of lobbying to get official recognition for him. The Maharashtra Government awarded the Chhatrapati Puraskar posthumously to Jadhav in 1992-93 and the Indian Government took almost 50 years after his Olympic glory to finally award the Arjuna Award in 2001 to him. The newly-built wrestling venue for the 2010 Delhi Common Wealth Gameswas named after him to honour his achievement.
While it is heartening to see that the players achieving Olympics success in recent times has been rewarded suitably, Khashaba Jadhav’s story is of a man, who despite his guts and glory, which will go down as a tragedy in the chronicles of sport in India.