CHENNAI : There’s clarity in her thoughts, boldness in her speech and confidence in her demeanour. CA Bhavani Devi attributes this transformation to fencing. The city-based fencing champion is the only Indian to have won a gold medal at the internationally recognised Tournoi Satellite Fencing Championship in Iceland in 2017. Twenty-four year old Bhavani began fencing in class 6. Squash was her second favourite sport. What started out as a fun game period during school days has now set a path for Bhavani, who lives with her four siblings and parents in Washermanpet of north Chennai.
Fencing has three disciplines — sabre, epee and foil. Bhavani specialises in sabre. The weapon size varies for different disciplines and so does the target zones in the body.Bhavani trains at the Sports Authority of India in Thalassery in Kerala. She practises six hours a day at SAI, Thalassery for her upcoming world championship. Bhavani’s only concern is that she has not been able to do her post graduation on a full-time basis since she spends most of her time training at Thalassery.
“Between studies and fencing, I always chose the latter. The sport was in its nascent stages when I started in 2004. Of the 50 students that I practised with, I am the only one who is still pursuing it as a lifetime dream and career. If not for my mother’s constant support, I wouldn’t have made it so far. She accompanied me for all competitions, armed with a notepad to calculate the points on the score board. Sometimes she’d even fight with superiors when things were not fair. She truly is my inspiration,” says Bhavani, adding that it is safe to play provided the gears are worn properly. The garment must be replaced even if there is a small hole or misfit in the mask or the body garment. It is an expensive sport.
Bhavani is placed at 36 in the International Fencing Federation World rankings. Bhavani has travelled to 20 countries to participate in various fencing championships. Right from booking tickets and buying new equipment to taking part in competitions, there has always been financial crisis due to improper funding for the sport. “There are about 150 female participants from 50 countries. There are eight female participants for fencing tournaments from India. But I have to travel alone from Chennai.
My weapons weigh 40 kg and I carry all of them. Having your coach by the side always lifts your spirits. I am unfortunate when it comes to enjoying any of these privileges because the train tickets are very expensive. I don’t want to put extra burden on my coach by pressurising him to accompany me,” shares Bhavani. Bhavani is currently being helped financially by Sports Ministry’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme and GoSports foundation. She believes that having a sports quota for this game can aid employment in future.