“Somebody asked me the other day how do I plan to make it to the quarterfinals, now that I have qualified for the Games. I said why just the quarterfinals, why not the finals,” she said.
Addressing a virtual press conference from Italy on Wednesday, Bhavani Devi declared: “I want to give my absolute best at the Tokyo Olympics and am not going to restrict myself in thinking about what I can or cannot achieve in the global event. The possibilities are limitless.”
President of the Fencing Association of India and General Secretary of the IOA, Mr. Rajeev Mehta, beamed with pride while speaking to the press, revealing that he had always had faith in Bhavani’s talent.
“I had said two years back that she was going to qualify for the Olympics and many laughed at me. Now I am going to say that she is going to achieve something special in Tokyo,” Mr Rajeev Mehta said.
The president believes that Bhavani’s qualification is going to change the face of fencing in the country. “Along with the Sports Minister, we have already put together a strategy for the sport. We are looking to build 50 Centres of Excellence across the country, by March 31st, with each of them training about 30 talented kids,” he revealed.
Bhavani’s emergence and success is a story of grit, hard work and sacrifices. She didn’t want to dwell on the negatives, about their financial struggles, but did reveal that she had taken up fencing by accident as an 11-year-old.
“When I enrolled to take up sport, we were all divided into groups and were given the option to choose from five different sports. By the time my turn came, there were slots only in fencing,” she laughed.
But once she got into it, she fell in love with fencing, and even lied about her father’s income so that she could remain in it. “It was a very expensive sport and I was scared that I would not be allowed if they got to know that I came from a poor family.
“Even then, as the equipment was so costly and difficult to acquire, we used to practice with bamboo sticks and use proper swords only during competitions.”
Bhavani’s mother, Ramani Devi, who was also part of the conference facilitated by GoSports Foundation, conceded that the first 10 years were a huge struggle. “It was very difficult to raise all the money that was needed to keep her going but, more than money, I was worried about Bhavani’s safety. We all thought it was a dangerous sport and feared that she would get hurt. Later too, as Bhavani had to travel to different countries alone, that also was a matter of concern.”