The athlete became the first ever Indian fencer to participate at the Olympics in Tokyo 2020.
Bhavani Devi now has a piece of history for her own. She became the first ever Indian to represent the country in fencing in the Olympic Games, when she qualified for Tokyo 2020. At the Olympics, she dominated and won her first-round match against Tunisian Nadia ben Azizi before bowing out against eventual bronze medal winner Manon Brunet in the next.
She spoke to Khel Now in an exclusive chat regarding her humble beginnings and journey to the Tokyo Olympics.
Fencing comes into life
Her initial encounter with fencing was ordinary but it still stands to have a historic significance in Indian sporting history.
“I always wanted to get into sports when I was young. I moved to a new school in Chennai. We were given five sports to choose from. They asked for six members for each sport. When I went to give my name, the only option left was fencing. I gave my name. Later, they explained the rule and showed us the equipment. It was fun playing the sport then and even now,” she recalled.
Way around expensive equipment
Bhavani Devi used to train with bamboo sticks in her yesteryears, to preserve and protect her equipment from damages and to only use those during her competitions.
“Fencing was a very new sport in India. We did not have enough equipment and they were very expensive. We had to export our equipment from other countries. When I started training, we bought one set of equipment and kept it aside for competition. For training, we used bamboo sticks, because the proper equipment could break while training. It would have been difficult then.”
Journey and struggles
Her journey was quite a difficult but necessary one. She had to brave a sport that did not have much popularity or financial aspect in India but managed to do it with the unending support from her parents.
“The experiences and the learnings I have got from this journey was very special. In the beginning, I was doing everything alone. It was difficult but these situations were helping me get better. Not only as a fencer but as a person. That was what made me a strong woman. My parents were the ones who supported me from day one. Their support helped me push forward. They kept telling me not to think about my results and to keep going forward,” stated Bhavani Devi.
Just like every other girl child in India, she was also at the receiving end of unfair criticism due to her gender. The Indian athlete recalled, “It is difficult to sustain in a sport as a woman. Because the result takes time. We need more experience. We need time for that. I had thought that if I were a man, I may not have received so many discouraging words. They were telling me to choose other options. However, now it is changing. During the Olympics and after Olympics, I have received words of support from many people.”
Qualification and preparation for Olympics
Her ambition while pursuing fencing professionally was absolutely clear. She wanted to be a part of the biggest sporting event in the world. Bhavani Devi remarked, “My goal was to represent India at the Olympics. It was my dream when I started fencing. When you try to do something for the first time, it is very difficult. You need to face a lot of other things that do not involve the sport. I was very happy that I made the right decision. I believed in myself and even my parents, who believed in me more than I did.”
She made sure that she left no stone unturned in her preparation for the Olympics. The Indian star felt that the time she spent training for the Olympics helped push her game to the next level.
“I was training for Olympics for the last 15 years. I had a good opportunity to train with the Italian national team. I am thankful to the Italian Fencing Federation for allowing me to participate in their special training camps. And that helped me to improve better. For me, the last few months’ training helped me a lot. It is not easy to start well in a competition like Olympics, when you are not experienced. I think that kind of training and experience helped me to focus only on my performance,” she concluded.