TOKYO, Japan — British boxer Ben Whittaker wishes he could do his Olympic medal ceremony over again after he refused to wear his silver medal on the podium, considering the prize a symbol of his failure in the ring.
"I should have took it on the chin and put the beautiful silver medal on my neck and just smiled,” Whittaker said later. "I'm a winner at the end of the day."
Arlen Lopez of Cuba defeated Whittaker to win the Olympic gold medal in the men's light-heavyweight boxing in Tokyo on Wednesday. Whittaker was so disappointed by his silver medal in the light-heavyweight final on Wednesday that he refused to put it on, fearing it might make him look like a loser to his countrymen back home.
As his name was announced in the arena in Tokyo, a sullen Whittaker stepped up on the podium reluctantly with his hands in his pockets and looked down at the floor throughout.
When he accepted the silver medal, he folded the ribbon neatly around it and put it in his pocket as the gold was handed to Lopez.
"I truly woke up this morning believing it's my time," Whittaker said. "And it just felt like a failure, so I just couldn't celebrate the silver at that time and I don't think I can just yet."
After he left the arena, a team official whispered to Whittaker quietly and he put the medal around his neck before he met the waiting media.
Whittaker told reporters his gesture meant no disrespect to Lopez, who won his second consecutive Olympic gold medal.
"It's his moment and I'd never want to take the shine away from him but it hurt me so deep and I felt embarrassed, truthfully," he said. "A couple of years from this, I'll look back and say 'what was I doing?’"
Back home, the BBC showed its support of Whittaker on social media, assuring the first-time Olympian he has "not let anyone down."