CHENNAI: A month-and-a-half ago, CA Bhavani Devi must have felt so close to her aim of becoming the first Indian fencer to make it to the Olympics. As things stood, she was virtually there — an official confirmation would have arrived by the end of March. All she had to do was to avoid underperforming at a World Cup event in Belgium.
But on Tuesday, as news that the Olympics had been postponed by a year broke, Bhavani must have felt pangs of despair. She was so close. If the international fencing federation (FIE) decides to extend the qualification period until next year, then there is no saying where she will be in terms of rankings.
For a fencer with minimal support, embarking on the whole process again after being on the cusp is no mean task. Add to that all the risks she had taken in order to see this through! She is still under isolation after returning to India from Belgium last week.
For the longest time, she stuck on in Italy — the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic after the initial outbreak in China — to train under her coach Nicola Zanotti. Even when most parts of Italy had been locked down, she still returned to Livorno after World Cup in Athens, only leaving the country when it became clear that training there would not be possible any longer.
However, she has taken the postponement in her stride and is relieved that it’s not an outright cancellation. "Health comes first for everyone. It is good they’ve postponed rather than cancelling it. The decision was made fast, so it’s good for everyone to clear any confusion. We can be more prepared for future competitions. The qualification process remains the same, I think, as they did not make any announcement on that," she said.
Self-isolating at home after returning from Belgium, she is trying her best to keep herself fit despite not being able to train. "I am focusing on fitness. I have some dumbbells and therabands (resistance bands), so I’m working with these and also doing some shuttle runs. As far as fencing is concerned, I only do footwork routines on the terrace," she said.
She has also taken the time out to catch up on all the latest movies, something she had missed out on for the last few years. "Yes, I’ve watched all the latest Tamil movies, which I haven’t for a long time. I also try do some reading."
Bhavani is relieved about one thing — her coach Nicola and her training-mates back in Italy are all safe. “I message him every day and ask him what’s going around. “My training-mates are also fine. We are in touch,” she said.