Bhavani Devi- The First Indian Fencer to Qualify for Olympics

Bhavani Devi

Representing one’s own country and the sport that he/she has spent years mastering in the Olympics, is probably the dream of every athlete across the world and crossing all odds, Bhavani Devi, became the first Indian fencer to qualify for Olympics and realize her dream. It was 14th March, 2021, a normal Sunday afternoon, until the sabre fencer created history by securing a berth for Tokyo 2020 Olympics at the ongoing Fencing World Cup and she got her long deserved attention from the people of the country. The qualification news drove the entire country frenzy in just a matter of minutes and it was at this moment, that the not so popular sport in the country, became the sparkle of the eyes of the people and the inquisitive talks about “who is Bhavani Devi?” started rising up in the air and people began googling about her.

While she became the talk of the town, for Bhavani Devi it was not an overnight success. Hailing from a middle class family and making it to the Olympics was like reaching to the moon, especially when the sport is not so popular and isn’t that easy to just lace up shoes and pick up. Despite this, her qualification for the international sporting event not only created history as she became the first Indian fencer to qualify for Olympics, but also gave a simple reason to millions of Indians to be proud of her.

Key Highlights Of This Blog are :-

  • Bhavani Devi’s Bio : Family Background and Her Upbringing In School
  • Bhavani Devi’s Introduction To Fencing
  • Bhavani Devi’s Success Story : Her List Of Achievements
  • The Heartbreak
  • The Preparation For The Upcoming Tokyo 2020

Bhavani Devi’s Bio : Family Background and Her Upbringing In School

Bhavani Devi was born on 27th August, 1993 in a middle class family in the beautiful costal city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu. She was the youngest of all and was the fourth child in the family. She was born and brought up to an always encouraging homemaker, mother is an and her father who was a temple priest but gorged on literary texts in multiple languages.

As a child, she was inclined to sports, since the age of 10 itself. She studied at Muruga Dhanushkodi Girls Higher Secondary School and later attended St. Joseph’s Engineering College as well which was also in her hometown.

Bhavani Devi’s Introduction To Fencing

In the year 2003-2004, when Bhavani Devi was in class VI th, she was introduced to one of the least talked sport in India- fencing and that too in her school. Initially, Bhavani Devi was very keen and she started to take interest in her discipline from the very beginning itself, which lead to her obsession and turned into a serious passion as soon as she began to excel in it.

She was so much passionate about fencing that after appearing in Higher Secondary Exam (HSC), she joined the Sports Authority Of India (SAI) center in Thalassery, in Kerala to work on her fencing skills. Luckily, the Sports Authority Of India (SAI) center in Thalassery, was among the very few institutions that had facilities for training in fencing but for that Bhavani Devi had to pay the price. As a sacrifice, she had to leave her home and had to stay away from her parents.

Soon after, she made her first international appearance as a fencer. At the tender age of 14, she appeared in her first international tournament in Turkey but that did not turn into a fruitful one as she was shown a black card, the highest quantum of punishment in fencing for being late by 3 minutes. As a result, she was expulsed from the tournament.

Such an incident posses the power to break down anyone, let alone be a teenager. However, the incident did not deter her and failed to suppress her love towards the sport. Instead, the young girl came back even stronger.

Bhavani Devi’s Success Story : Her List Of Achievements

Owing to the sheer hard work and effort that she has put in learning the nuances of the sport, Bhavani Devi has a long list of achievements to her name.

  • It all started at the international level in the year 2009, where she bagged Bronze at the Commonwealth Championship which was held in Malaysia.
  • Following this, she continued winning Bronze medal at the 2010 International Open, 2010 Cadet Asian Championship, 2012 Commonwealth Championship.
  • She also became the first Indian to win a silver medal at the 2014 Asian Championship U23 category in Philippines, and continued winning Bronze medals at 2015 Under-23 Asian Championship and 2015 Flemish Open to emerge as the premier Indian sabreuse.
  • She also etched her name in history, by winning a gold medal at the senior Commonwealth Fencing Championship in Canberra in the sabre event in 2019 and became the first ever Indian fencer to do so.

Bhavani Devi already had so many firsts to her name and she continues to clinche more of them, slowly yet steadily as she becomes the first Indian fencer to qualify for the Olympics and books her ticket to Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The Heartbreak

Owing to the huge success that she had during her 2014 Asian Championship, the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, granted financial aid to her for her training in the United States as she started preparing to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Owing to the consistency that she had in her performance at that point of time, sports fans from across the country expected her to qualify for the 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro.

For two years, she criss crossed across the globe and tried to improve her rankings in order to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. However, all of this went in vain as she missed the qualification by just a whisker and the wait to see an Indian fencer at the Olympics continued both for her and the country.

At this moment, Bhavani Devi nearly broke. She was disappointed but had trust in herself. Back in 2016, in a press conference she said to News Today “ I am very disappointed to miss out being part of the Indian team at Rio. In the last two years, I pushed myself alone without proper support and travelled a lot without a proper plan. So, for 2020 I will try not to make the same mistakes and make the right plan to achieve my dream. I am planning to go to Italy to train for a few months.”

Her determination was rewarded as she was one among the 15 athletes selected for the ‘Go Sports Foundation’ for the Rahul Dravid Athlete Mentorship Programme which provided her opportunity to go to Italy for training.

The Preparations For The Upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Approximately five years after the Rio disappointment, Bhavani Devi is all set to be a part of Tokyo 2020 Olympics which is expected to take place in July-August 2021. Despite years of hard work, the road to Olympics was full of ups and downs and the journey was surely not an easy one. As the world went into lockdown, Bhavani was dealing with anxiety as she was at the mercy of external results, being on the cusp and with tournaments cancelled. As the days passed by, Bhavani Devi was at the brink of uncertainty as years of hard work was at stake. It was finally after Italy defeated the hosts, Hungary that World Number 45 Bhavani Devi was assured of a spot.

She was so happy as she cried and was at a loss of words while talking to her sponsors back home and why shouldn’t she be, after all her lifetime’s dream has been achieved.

Currently, she has been training at the Tuscan coastal city of Livorno in Italy at the academy of coach Nicola Zanotti. This will be her first ever experience at the Olympics and will surely bring truckloads of expectations on her young shoulders. But, more than that, the wait for India to see an Indian fencer at the Olympics will come to an end and the nation together will celebrate her journey to the Olympics and who knows, her achievements, might just help kick-start a fencing revolution in the country and by the end the question “ who is Bhavani Devi?” might not need an answer.

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