For Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav alias KD Jadhav, life was never easy. Born in a village in Satara district of Maharsashtra, he defeated the local champion in a wrestling bout at the tender age of eight.
KD Jadhav then went on to become the first individual medalist of independent India at the Olympic games, when he won the wrestling bronze medal in the bantamweight category at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. At a time when hockey was the only sport where India used to win medals at the Olympics, KD Jadhav’s achievement is arguably one of the greatest by an Indian at the Olympics.
In 1955, Jadhav joined the police force as a sub-inspector and the following 22 years saw him working without any promotion. He dies in a tragic motorcycle accident in 1984 and his wife struggled to get assistance from any quarter. Incidentally, Jadhav had been struggling to get his pension funds released and the construction of a small house that he was getting built kept being delayed. Sadly, the house, which was named “Olympic Niwas” could not be ready in time for Jadhav.
Despite Jadhav’s achievements, it took years of lobbying to get official recognition for him. The Indian Government took almost 50 years after his Olympic glory to finally award the Arjuna Award to him. The newly-built wrestling venue for the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games was named after him to honour his achievements.
Today, Olympic medallists in India enjoy the limelight and are showered with a great amount of media attention. However, this has not always been the case as witnessed by KD Jadhavs story, a man who despite his guts and glory, will go down as an unsung hero in the chronicles of Indian sports.