KOCHI: “En garde,” the referee shouts. Two players get into position. The bout is set to begin. “Pret! Allez!” Both the players hold onto their hilt and duels like their life depended on it. And they spar.
It’s not a popular sport in India. And if not for a few like international award-winning Bhavani Devi, the combat sport of fencing would have remained relatively unheard of. However, it looks like things won’t be that way for long. Kochi-based fencer Abhijith S G is making a promising start.
Abhijith is one of the 11 men in Kerala training under the state government’s ambitious ‘Operation Olympia’ project, which trains sportspersons intensively with the aim of picking up medals at the next Olympics.
Abhijith got into fencing under the guidance of his father, a fencer himself. “I started training with my dad from Class V and it continued until Class VIII,” he says. “Later, I underwent training at my school. After school, I joined Chinmaya College to do better in fencing.”
Currently, he trains at the Kannur Indore Stadium under his coaches, Prajith and Rajisha. The three practice sessions every day begin with a warm-up, followed by a 45-minute-long footwork. After this, Abhijith goes on to do partner exercise, lessons which are usually one-on-one sessions with coaches, and train for bouts.
The sport is Abhijith’s passion. But the infrastructure here has not been keeping up with his heart for the sport. “Because the sport is relatively unknown here, the facilities provided are very basic,” he says. “The game has not yet been upgraded. At the inception of Operation Olympia, it was said foreign coaches would be appointed for better exposure. Nothing has happened yet. Our dream of an Olympic medal will only become a reality if we upgrade our game.”
This 22-year-old MCom student, who has accomplished much in varsity and senior competitions, aims to be the first male fencer to win an Olympic medal for the country. He has also participated in international fencing championships.
And it seems the hilt and blade are not limited to him and his father. His 20-year-old sister trains with Thiruvananthapuram SAI and has participated in international fencing competitions.