Thursday, October 2, 2014

Lesson from Sarita Devi

I have now a new boxing heroine and she’s from Asia. Her name is Sarita Devi, the Indian who lost a controversial lightweight bout against South Korean Ji Na Park in the Asian Games at Incheon recently. Several dailies around the globe featured a crying Sarita on the front page, claiming she had been "robbed in the ring" by "biased" judges. Said the report that can be accessed HERE.

Before Devi’s emotional outburst during the medal ceremony, I happened to see the live telecast over Channel 5 on how our Filipino boxer lost to another Korean via same controversial match. I almost fell from my seat and shout to the heavens when Filipino flyweight Clark Bautista lost to hometown bet Choe Sangdon last Saturday. Choe was visibly rubber-kneed in the end and very lucky to finish the fight standing. Referee Michael Gallagher called a KO on 3rd round but the 5 judges favored Choe via UD, scoring 30-26, 29-27, 29-27. Five judges are assigned for every fight but a computer randomly selects which 2 scorecards to eliminate.

Ed Picson, the supervisor of the Philippine Boxing Team in Incheon almost filed a protest but he did not. Why? Because according to AIBA rules, said Picson, it is not allowed to file a protest on a decision. He stressed further that, “You can only file a protest on something the referee did to affect the outcome of the match”. So, one cannot file a protest if it concerns the score of the judges as stated HERE. Well, you may call her gesture as unsportsmanlike or plain emotionally- charged action, I understand what Sarita Devi is feeling right now. One thing is certain: She and Clark Bautista are victims of this semi-crazy rule!

With that explanation from Picson, I understand now why the Indian sports officials that went to Korea are mum on the issue. Picson even said on Bautista’s feat, “[I]t would just antagonize the officials if we pursued a protest. We made our message clear to (Tournament Supervisor) David (Francis of Wales) anyway and I’m hoping he appreciated our position.” Therefore, making the message clear to game officials is sufficient enough. But my heart bleeds with Sarita Devi when she cried, "None of the officials who came with me protested. I have been representing India for 14-15 years now but no one supported me when I needed it the most". What a sad, sad thing. "I have sacrificed for my country, whatever I did, I did it for my country and other players so that they don't go through the same thing again," she concluded as reported in THIS news item.

Many will say that the action made by Devi at the medal ceremony is not right and an uncalled for decision. An irrational decision maybe but certainly it’s triggered by emotion. An emotional decision made by a human being who felt robbed and became victim of injustice in a noble sport called sweet science. At age 32, she is not getting any younger for she's in a sport where age and agility matters most. A sport she truly love. 

As of press time, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) had been requested to decide on the matter. Francis said in a statement, “I had to request OCA to review this incident, so any boxer or athlete in other sports will not follow in her footsteps by respecting the spirit of fair-play and sportsmanship of the Olympic Movement." Well, that’s it. Disciplinary action from OCA may or may not come soon.

This is the lesson I learned from Sarita Devi’s story: Heroines and victims do not need medals, anyway. And in times of scandals and controversies, heroines and victims, like whistle-blowers, need to rock the boat…

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