Tamil Nadu fencer Bhavani talks about battling against the odds to succeed in a fledgling sport
Bhavani Devi is not yet a name like Mary Kom, a Saina Nehwal or a Sania Mirza. But in a fledgling sport like fencing, she has been making some waves. Four days ago she won a bronze medal in the Asian Fencing Championships in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator.
In an interview with Sportskeeda, Bhavani discussed the odds which she has been steadfastly braving to pursue the combat sport, which has a strong tradition in India:
On her introduction to the sport:
“I have been fencing for 9 years. In 2004 fencing was introduced at school level in Tamil Nadu , including my school Muruga Dhanushkodi girls higher secondary ,Chennai. And I joined there. I took to this sport. This year, I joined MBA at St. Joseph engineering college Chennai.”
On the state of fencing in India:
“We don't have proper infrastructure to practise as fencing needs lot of equipment to train. And we don't get foreign exposure for training and we also don’t send teams for international competitions , due to lack of funds. For the past three years I have been financed by my family and found sponsors on my own to go for competitions and train abroad without a coach for competitions. One or two competitions were supported by SAI.
“I also received funding from Tamil Nadu government for two competitions, but that is not enough to achieve big. As fencing is a developing sport in the country, we need to participate in all international tournaments to improve our standard and to be up-to-date with new.
“Abroad every competitions are well organised with high quality equipment. And all teams have their own personal coaches and physiotherapists. I dont have coach’s support during competitions, because of lack of funds he cannot afford to travel on his own. So in many tournaments if I had my coach with me I would have achieved more. It is very important for an athlete to have your coach with you during competition. He can watch from outside and explain better to prepare for next match.”
The top fencing nations:
“Countries like USA, Russia, Korea are the top strong teams. They have many professional coaches for fencing.”
On the prevalence of fencing in India:
“We do have national level tournaments conducted. There are many fencers in our country. But due to lack of funds and not going for international competitions players are not showing much interest. But still there are some players who are trying hard to achieve big goals but due to lack of financial support, we could not go for tournaments. Kerala, Punjab, Manipur are strong teams in the country.”
Should fencing be popularised in school?
“Yes, it should be introduced to all schools. Fencing is one of the five sports which has been played from the first modern Olympics.”
What level of financial backing is needed for the sport?
“We need financial support from the government to take part in all international competitions. And also to take part in foreign training camps. This is beacuse results will not come in one or two competitions. It takes time and experience, as fencing is a developing sport in the country.”
Tell us how training abroad helped you
“I was training in Portland, USA this August. I accredit training with coach Mr. Edward Korfanty for this medal. And also my coach back in India Mr. Sagar lagu supported me. We used to talk over Skype about each training session and correct my mistakes. That helped me to win this medal. I would like to thank them both. And my parents are the main source for my results in the sport without their support I would not have achieved this. I want to thank them with many more medals.”
Can India win an Olympic medal in fencing?
“Yes, an Indian can definitely win an Olympic medal. We all have good talents but to hone that in a proper way we need to participate in international tournaments and need more support from the government, not only financially but also providing physiotherapists, nutrionist etc. I am working hard to qualify for Rio Olympic games 2016. Hoping for the best.
“My rank was 62 in the world but due to not taking part in international tournaments regularly it came down. Now I have been selected for the Rahul Dravid mentorship programme by Gosports Foundation. They will be providing some help financially and also the other supports like psychologist, nutritionist etc.. But I will need more financial support because fencing is a very expensive sport. Equipments and foreign trips are very expensive.”