CHENNAI: It’s not easy being a sportsperson in India. The sacrifices needed always make it a hazard to take up full-time careers. Not to forget almost no funding in most cases. But fencer CA Bhavani Devi has forged an uncharted path to success. And Saturday night brought her biggest moment, and perhaps a moment that could help change the fortunes of fencing in India, when she won gold in the sabre event of the Turnoi Satellite Fencing Championship, a World Cup event, in Reykjavik, Iceland.
She thus became the first fencer from the nation to clinch the yellow metal at an international event. This after falling in the quarterfinals in the last two years. “Winning a first medal is special. And when it’s gold, even more so. Not only for me, but also for the development of the sport in India. Last year I lost 14-15 to Spaniard Laia Vila (eventual silver winner). When I prepared for this one, I wanted gold.
My coach (Nicola Zanotti from Italy) said I could definitely win if I controlled myself. It also gives me confidence to prepare for upcoming tournaments,” Bhavani told Express on Sunday.
It hasn’t been an easy journey, with funding issues plaguing her. “Credit to my family and coach. My family has been taking loans to ensure I compete in tournaments. Despite being added to the TN government’s Elite athletes’ scheme last year, through which I get paid back for event expenses, I don’t get reimbursed all the time. That’s when my family has to reach out. It would help if corporates sponsor us,” the 23-year-old noted.
Bhavani has been training at the SAI Centre in Thalassery, Kerala, since 2008, but barely gets support from their government. And though she has applied for jobs, nothing has come her way. “GoSports Foundation, under their Rahul Dravid mentorship programme, supports me from time to time.
But the Kerala government does not provide funding, though they did offer me a job as I represented them at the 2016 National Games. But since I’ve started playing for TN, I don’t know whether they will still give me the job.
I would prefer if the TN government provides me a job. I had also applied with Railways, but they didn’t respond,” said the St Joseph’s Engineering College student, where she is doing MBA in Marketing and HR.
For someone breaking barriers and winning laurels for the country, this is not ideal motivation. Hopefully, this gold will change all that, not only for Bhavani but for the good of the sport in the country.