But, those failures weren’t easy at all! During a virtual press meet, Bhavani said, “I picked the sport back in 2004 and my journey started with a defeat in my debut. Everyone else from my team won a medal except for me and this was something that really motivated me to put in my best efforts.”
Bhavani further stated that it was the only option as she was keen on joining sports rather than sitting in class. However, the school where she studied had only five sports in their curriculum, out of which four were already filled leaving fencing as the only option for her.
But that was not the only defeat Bhavani had faced. Her financial struggle was unbelievable. On her first training session, Bhavani was asked a rather unwelcoming question about her father’s income, which she had to lie about then.
“When I joined this sport, the first question they asked students was, ‘How much is your father’s annual income?’ They said fencing is a very expensive sport and one couldn’t afford it if they came from a poor family. At that point, I lied about how much my father was earning in those days,” Bhavani said.
“It was only later that I understood why that teacher had asked us that question. The swords and the equipment were very expensive. In the beginning, we would practice with bamboo sticks and use our swords in competition only. This was because if we broke the swords, we couldn’t afford to buy them, and that process wasn’t easy either because it had to be imported.”
Bhavani, who also is the first Indian to win an international tournament in this discipline, feels that it was very ruthless at the beginning, especially with her being the only member of the Indian contingent. However, she felt more welcome when the news of her Olympic qualification broke, and opposition teams came and congratulated her.
“India’s fencing was not looked upon very highly in foreign countries, especially with me being the single member to represent the country without any coach. However, things are changing and the day I qualified for Tokyo, many participants came and congratulated me.”
Bhavani believes that those who are good sportspersons must be encouraged from school level. Bhavani’s mother Ramani also opened up about all her fears for her daughter. “Our relatives, neighbours would always ask if it was safe for her to travel alone. I was also very apprehensive initially. She was so young. But Bhavani has amazing strength and a blazing desire to excel,” she stated.
The 27-year-old also highlighted the efforts she invested in order to fulfill her Olympic dream.
— C A Bhavani Devi (@IamBhavaniDevi) March 15, 2021
“I never had any doubt about my decision regarding this sport whether I had good results or bad, I gave my best. I always tried to improve myself and do better in competitions. Because fencing in India is a new sport, it’s developing now, in Italy or any other country they are playing for more than 100 years. So, for us to arrive at that level we have to work double than other advanced countries.”
“So, I always worked very hard like I would do three sessions or train on Saturdays that’s why I was able to arrive here. If I had missed something in training I wouldn’t have been here and the support from others because we had to spend more money on fencing as I had to compete in many competitions to get more points,” Bhavani said.
“I want to give my best performance in the Olympics. I don’t put any limit on my achievement; I want to enjoy everything and every process that I’m going to do from now till the Olympics. I want to give the best performance in front of the whole world and want to make my country proud,” she concluded.