India is a country where the career paths for Women over the years have been branched, keeping safety in mind. Women make up a nominal part of the Indian Army, Offshore Oil drills, rescue Teams, etc., where risk is a part of the Job profile. Fencing traditionally considered a sport for the crème de la crème, which not many Indians are familiar with. Bhavani Devi has put the sport on the Indian map after she qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. Bhavani Devi, ranked 42nd in the World, made it to Tokyo officially through the Asia/Oceanic zone.
Destiny started making plans for Devi when the late Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Jayalalithaa introduced Fencing as part of the 'Sports in Schools' initiative. Fencing might have been a happy accident for Bhavani when the authorities returned to fill the slots for Fencing, having pulled a 'Registrations full' initially.
Fencer born to a Priest and a homemaker, you don't hear this often, yet this might be the foundation for many to take up Fencing as a career in the future. When Devi started Fencing at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, she practiced with sticks on the Badminton court. "We used all sorts of things to practice. We would go to the stadium at 5.30 am every day and from there to school. In the evening, from school back to the stadium and then home. This was the routine for years." Bhavani told The Hindu
in an interview.
Tides changed for Bhavani when Sagar Lagu, a Coach at the Sports Authority of India (SAI), identified her talent and invited her to train at the SAI academy in Thalassery. Bhavani then moved to Thalassery after finishing her Class X and continued her training along with her studies.
Bhavani's medal rush started in 2009 when she bagged Bronze in the Commonwealth Championship, Malaysia. Devi's medal galore was later filled by her Bronzes in the 2010 International Open and 2012 Commonwealth Championships. Devi, the first Indian Fencer to make it to the Olympics, was also the first to win Gold at the 2019 Commonwealth Fencing Championship.
Trained under Italian coach Nicola Zanott, Bhavani managed to qualify for the Tokyo Games but a podium finish is a long shot. The Sabre event will feature highly fancied Mariel Zagunis of the US who's back for her fifth Olympics, having won gold both at Athens and Beijing, while favourites Ukraine's Kharlan and arch-nemesis Russia's Velikaya continue to hunt their maiden Olympic gold.