Born on 15 January 1926 in Karad, Satara Pune Maharashtra, Khashaba Jadhav is best known as a wrestler who won a bronze medal at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. He was one of the first athletes from India to win a medal in the Olympics.
Born and brought up in pre-independence period, Jadhav helped the revolutionaries hide and provided them shelter and circulated letters among the Indians. His father was a wrestling coach and thus started giving the lessons of wrestling to Khashaba when he was just 5 years old. Khashaba was also brilliant in academics.
The quest for the best: First Individual Olympic Medalist of Independent India
Jadhav first represented India in the Olympics in the year 1948 where he was financially supported by ‘’The Maharaja of Kolhapur’’. Rees Gardner, a former lightweight World champion from the United States trained Jadhav during the 1948 Olympics and with his guidance; Jadhav surprised everyone by defeating the Australian wrestler Bert Harris in the first few minutes of the bout. He went on to defeat Billy Jernigan of USA, but lost to Mansour Raisi of Iran, to be eliminated from the tournament. For his first attempt on the mat, Jadhav was successful and finished 6th in those Games in the flyweight section.
The efforts Jadhav generally used to put in were increased by many times as he was determined to grab a podium finish by hook or crook in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.
According to the rules, a minimum rest of 30 minutes should be given to the player after the marathon bout (a short period of intense activity of a specified kind). Due to unavailability of Indian Official, Khashaba was forced to play the match with Soviet Union’s Rashid Mammadbeyov, who took the advantage of Khashaba’s tiredness due to lack of enough rest and therefore went on to be beat Khashaba and reach finals.
Defeating the wrestlers from Canada, Mexico and Germany, Khashaba won bronze medal on 23rd July 1952 thereby creating history by becoming Independent India’s first individual medal winner.
Disappointment after Glory
After he returned from 1952 Olympics he was given a warm welcome and was widely appreciated. As the days passed, people forgot who he was. Serving the police department for twenty-seven years and retiring as an Asst. Police Commissioner, he faced extreme hardships to avail the pension given to government employees.
The federation also neglected Jadhav and he lived his final stages in poverty. He died in a road accident in 1984; his wife struggled to get any assistance from any quarter.
He is the only Indian Olympic medallist who never received a Padma Award.
Fortune does not ALWAYS favour the brave and Khashaba is a prime example.
• He was honoured by making him a part of the torch run at the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi
• The Maharashtra Government awarded the Chhatrapati Puraskar posthumously in 1992-1993.
• He was posthumously honoured with the Arjuna Award in 2001.
• The newly-built wrestling venue for the 2010 Delhi Common Wealth Games was named after him to honour his achievement.
Despite winning an Olympic Medal, Khashaba Jadhav remains as one of the unsung heroes of Indian Olympic history.