Google Doodle on Sunday honors the 97th birthday of Indian wrestler Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav popularly known as Pocket Dynamo, who was India’s first individual athlete to win an Olympic medal at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki.
Who is Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav?
Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav was born in 1926 in the village of Goleshwar in Maharashtra. He inherited his athleticism from one of the best wrestlers in his village, his father. He began his training from the young age of 10 and quickly excelled in the sport. Standing at only 5’5″ he had a small stature, but with his quick footwork and skillful technique he went on to win many state and national titles.
Jadhav was popularly known for his dhak move, where he held his opponent in a headlock and then threw them to the ground.
Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav’s journey to winning an olympic medal
It was in 1940 when Jadhav caught the attention of Maharaj of Kolhapur. After an outstanding performance at Raja Ram college, the Maharaj funded Jadhav’s participation in the 1948 London Olympics. Jadhav that year created a new record for Indian wrestlers by managing to reach the sixth position without much experience or the knowledge of international wrestling rules and regulations. In London, he was trained by a former lightweight World Champion from the United States, Rees Gardner.
Jadhav took this as a lesson and focused on improving his performance. He trained harder than before and moved up a weight class to bantamweight for the Helsinki Olympics, which was held in 1952. There, he earned a bronze and became the first medal winner from independent India. During the Olympics he defeated wrestlers from Germany, Mexico and Canada before losing to the eventual champion. Though he lost the match against Japan’s Shohachi Ishii, it was just by a point.
Post his match against Ishii he was only offered rest for 15 minutes and was asked to fight against Soviet Union’s Rashid Mammadbeyov. Despite the rules stating a rest of 30 minutes he was asked to play the match, as there were no Indian Officials to fight his case he had to play the match, which he lost due to exhaustion.
On this journey it was not just the Maharaja of Kolhapur who supported him, it was an entire community that offered him support. The shopkeepers of Karad and his friends arranged for his kit, while the Principal of Jadhav’s college mortgaged his house for Rs 7,000 to help Jadhav get India’s first Olympic Medal.
Post the win the entire village celebrated his win. He was welcomed by a parade of bullock carts which carried him through the village.
Awards received by Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav
Unfortunately, a knee injury before the next Olympic forced Jadhav to retire from wrestling and he later worked as a police officer. He was awarded the Chhatrapati Puraskar in 1992-93 by the Maharashtra government. He was also awarded the Arjuna Award in 2000, which is India’s second-highest sporting honor. Later on the wrestling venue built for the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games was named in his honor.
He passed away in 1984 due to an accident.