Fencer C A Bhavani Devi scripted history by becoming the first Indian fencer to qualify for the Olympics in Fencing.
It has been an extremely testing period of time for C A Bhavani since last year. Bhavani who is an Indian Sabre fencer, was preparing for the Women’s Sabre World Cup under reputed coach Nicola Zanotti at Livorno in Italy. Sabre is one of the three disciplines of modern Fencing. The tournament was supposed to be held in Belgium from March 20, 2020. But the worldwide pandemic led to the postponement of the event and C A Bhavani had to return to India.
“Last year was very tough for me because I worked very hard for the last few years to compete in the Tokyo Olympics. But it was not in anybody’s control and after it was announced that the Olympics had been postponed, I felt a bit calmer. And I started preparing again,” Bhavani said.
Bhavani continued her training at home with online classes from her coach. But without getting physically involved, the training was becoming sporadic. At last when travel restrictions became a little easy, Bhavani flew back to Livorno to resume her training.
Since November 2020, C A Bhavani had an eagle’s eye only on her qualification for the Olympics. Her reward for keeping at it came at the World Cup in Hungary when she qualified for the Tokyo Games through the Adjusted Official Ranking (AOR) Method. Two individual spots were up for grabs for the Asia and Oceania region based on the World Rankings as of April 5, 2021. She is ranked 45th and occupies one of the two available slots based on the ranking.
C A Bhavani started her Fencing career in 2004 when the sport was introduced at her school, Muruga Dhanushkodi Girls’ High School. In a couple of years she understood her knack for Fencing and therefore wanted to pursue further. After finishing class 10 she joined the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Centre in Kerala for training.
At the age of 14 Bhavani appeared at her first international tournament in Turkey, but received a black card (the highest penalty, leading to expulsion from the tournament) for showing up three minutes late for her bout. It was a terrible lesson for her that made her competitive enough.
Bhavani’s first international medal came at 2009 Commonwealth Championship held in Malaysia in 2009. Next she won bronze in Asian Championship at Phillipines. In 2014 Asian Championship Under- 23 category she bagged the silver medal becoming the first Indian to achieve the feat. She also became the first Indian fencer to win gold medal in Commonwealth Championship in Australia in 2018.
Born in a middle-class family, Bhavani’s father was a priest whose earnings could have been a hindrance in her sporting career. But her parents never allowed their limited financial ability to come in the way of their daughter’s dream. In 2015, she was selected by Go Sports Foundation for Rahul Dravid Athlete Mentorship Programme. With that scholarship, Bhavani went to Europe for higher training.
I know how much I have trained these past five years. How hard I’ve worked and how tough it’s been to stay away from my family, missing every festival and occasion. The only regret I have is my father (whom she lost in 2019) not being around for this moment,” Bhavani told ESPN after her qualification.
C A Bhavani became the first Indian fencer ever to qualify for the Olympics. The qualification is only a start. There is a huge task that lies ahead before the Olympics start.