13-06-2017 05:00 AM | Lathika Saju | My Indian Dream
Bhavani Devi overcomes all shortcomings and struggles to win her first ever gold medal for the country in an international fencing tournament
In a country, where the sport of fencing is very little heard of, who could have imagined that a little girl of a temple priest will win the first ever gold medal for her country in an international fencing event. Bhavani Devi is a saber fencer who began her career in 2003.
Bhavani Devi was introduced to fencing while she was doing her schooling at Muruga Dhanushkodi girls higher secondary, Chennai. After finishing class 10 she joined the Indian fencing coach Sagar Lagu's training academy, the SAI Centre in Thalassery, Kerala.
As fencing is a fledgling sport in India, Bhavani had to face several odds to pursue the combat sport, which has a strong tradition in India. There is no proper infrastructure to train for fencing in India as this sport entails a lot of equipment for training.
The player's foreign exposure is very low as they are not sent to participate in international competitions due to lack of funds.
For more than three years, Bhavani had taken financial help from her family who were supportive and allowed her to pursue her favourite sport. She also had to find sponsors on her own to go for competitions and train abroad. Most of the times, she was unable to afford a coach for the competitions.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) did help her for one or two competitions. The Tamil Nadu government also helped her with some funds, but that wouldn’t suffice as Bhavani had bigger dreams.
As fencing is a developing sport in the country, Bhavani believed that participating in more and more international tournaments was of paramount importance as it will help to keep abreast of new developments and techniques in the sport. She had to participate in all international tournaments so as to improve her standard and be up-to-date with the new.
Abroad, all competitions are well organized with high-quality equipment and all teams have their own personal coaches and physiotherapists. Bhavani couldn’t even afford a coach in most of the tournaments. She believes that the presence of a coach boosts the morale of an athlete and had her coach been with her during her earlier competitions, she could have achieved even more.
Through her perseverance and hard work, she managed to get funds from SDAT( Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu) and a sports foundation which apart from funds, also provided her other supports like a psychologist, nutritionist etc. Thus she started training abroad and participated in numerous international events.
Gradually, Bhavani started winning medals. Earlier, she had won medals in Asian and Commonwealth Championships. A fortnight ago, Bhavani’s joys had no bounds as she won her first gold medal in Women’s World Cup Satellite Saber Tournament in Iceland. Although she had won numerous medals before, this was her first medal in a world level competition.
Being a temple priest’s daughter, taking up a combat sport and excelling in it was least expected of Bhavani as a teenager. She had taken up the sport in school just for fun, but soon developed a liking towards it. As she didn’t have the necessary equipment for the sport, she would practice with a stick. Her hard work and determination helped her to be outstanding in her field and win laurels for the country.
Just as we have Mary Kom for boxing, Sania Mirza for tennis, P V Sindhu for badminton, let us all welcome Bhavani Devi from the world of fencing. May she be able to win many more championships and carve a niche for herself as a leading fencer.
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