Why should we cherish Bhavani Devi's historic Olympics entry?
India should cherish her journey to the Olympics. For, Bhavani Devi might have just helped kick-start a fencing revolution in the country.
The 27-year-old Bhavani Devi shot to fame earlier this week, when she became the first-ever Indian fencer to qualify for the Olympics. Though the official announcement for the qualification would be made only in early April when the final World Rankings would be published, this news of qualification sent the entire country to frenzy in just a matter of minutes.
Bhavani Devi might have got the well-deserved, attention from the country just recently, but what she has achieved is undoubtedly the result of years of constant hard work and struggle.
Born to a religious Tamilian family in August 1993, her father is a priest and her mother a home-maker. Bhavani's introduction to the sport of fencing is very interesting. Though one of the least talked and known about sport in India, she was introduced to the sport at the age of around 10 years in her school.
Once she picked up the basics of the sport, she soon started excelling and developed a serious love and passion for fencing. Specialising in the individual sabre category, she rapidly rose through the ranks and joined the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Thalassery, Kerala after clearing her HSC examination.
Bhavani had faced many setbacks in her career, the first being in her very first international appearance. She was a naive 14-year-old then competing in an international event in Turkey. The story goes that she was three minutes late for her match and was shown a black-card, resulting in expulsion from the tournament.
Such an incident possesses the power to break anyone down, let alone a teenager. But this setback did not affect Bhavani, instead the young girl was determined to come back even stronger. And that is what exactly happened!
Her first major success at the international level came when she bagged a bronze medal during the 2009 Commonwealth Championships held in Malaysia, and there has been no looking back since.
Over the years she has clinched various international medals including a bronze in the 2010 International Open, 2010 Cadet Asian Championship, 2012 Commonwealth Championship, 2015 Under-23 Asian Championship and 2015 Flemish Open.
Besides, she also has to her name a silver medal in the U-23 category of the Asian Championship 2014.
Such was the consistency in her performances during that time sports fans across the country expected her to make it to the 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro. But, the wait to see an Indian fencer at the Olympics continued for both her and the country as she missed the qualification mark by a whisker.
Almost five years after the Rio disappointment, Bhavani Devi is finally set to become the first-ever Indian fencer at the Tokyo Olympics which is expected to take place in July and August 2021.
Her qualification to the quadrennial event was not an easy one by any means. It was only after Hungary lost to Korea in the recently concluded Fencing Sabre World Cup in Budapest that her entry to the Games was possible. As the Korean fencers had already qualified through the team ranking route, their triumph against Hungary helped the World Number 45th, Bhavani Devi, to qualify through the Adjusted Official Ranking (AOR) method.
This will be the first-ever Olympics appearance for Bhavani and there sure will be truckloads of expectations on her young shoulders. But more than pressurising her with expectations, it is high time that India cherishes her journey to the Olympics. For, Bhavani Devi, with her achievements, might have just helped kick-start a fencing revolution in the country.