Remembering A Forgotten Hero - Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav
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.
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.
When Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav wrestled his way to the bronze medal in the freestyle (bantamweight, 57kg) category at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, India rejoiced as it was its first individual medal after Independence.
But the ‘Pocket Dynamo’, as he was called, felt it could have been better if there were superior facilities back home and an easy passage.
Jadhav’s first feel of the big stage was at the 1948 London Olympics. During his stay in London, he was trained by Rees Gardner, a former lightweight World champion from the United States. It was Gardner’s guidance that saw the champion wrestler from Goleshwar village in Maharashtra finish sixth in the flyweight section.
The sixth-place finish did a world of good to his confidence. Jadhav, from there, believed that he had the ability to topple the best in the world and, quite rightly, worked hard over the next few years for a trip to Helsinki.