The journey of Bhavani Devi in becoming Asia’s first Olympic fencer started from her childhood.
This year India made a mark in the Olympics. From winning a gold in Javelin to a bronze in weight lifting, Indian players have made us proud once again. This year’s Olympic Games has been a remarkable one as there were many sportsmen and women who have qualified and received laurels for their sports.
One among them is Chadalavada Anandha Sundhararaman Bhavani Devi, also known as Bhavani Devi. She is the first Indian fencer to quality to the Olympics after 2020 Summer Olympics.
From Chennai to Olympics, Miss, Bhavani Devi has made a journey of stones and thrones. She has faced a lot of challenges in achieving all the glory. Her challenges awarded her by becoming the role model for many aspiring sports people.
Below is a gist of Bhavani Devi’s inspiring journey and what it took to become the Asia’s first Olympic fencer.
Bhavani Devi was born in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Her Father Mr. C Sundararamana is a Hindu priest and Mrs. Ramani, a homemaker. Her brother Suresh kumar is an investment advisor and Ganesh ram is a lawyer and her sister Renuka is a lawyer too.
“My parents were really surprised by my life choices. They were rather happy that I was doing some other activity. They liked my attitude of trying something new and they were always supportive. They never said, ’No, no, you are a girl, you should not go for sports’. It was the same for my siblings. So, when people ask me how I chose it despite being a girl, I never faced it. The thought just never crossed my mind,”
- Bhavani Devi about her childhood
Bhavani Devi started her fencing during her childhood and climbed her way up to the Olympics. She was not rich enough to study in a posh school but got a chance to play the game in school.
“I started fencing at the age of 11. It was also the first sport I picked. I was in 6th class in a government school when they announced that four new sports are being introduced. Six students were to join each sport and when my turn came, it was only fencing that was left and I took it. They never explained what it was and the next day we went to the stadium and I was very excited to see all the protective equipment and swords. It was very attractive and had never played this sport before and I was happy to choose it. But then I was into a lot of other sports such as squash and wasn’t very sure. Then one day I lost a match of fencing and that’s when I decided that I need to focus on it,”
- Bhavani Devi about her fencing career
Bhavani Devi was from a humble middle-class family where she faced shortage of funds. She had to made many sacrifices for pursuing fencing as a sport.
“In the beginning, we were not very strong financially so purchasing equipment was very tough. They were very expensive and we had to keep purchasing new equipment. So, I used to train with bamboo sticks instead so as to keep my real swords intact for the competitions. Also for entry in each category, there was entry fees involved which was difficult for us to pay. But my mother, ‘If you want to play, you play, I will arrange somehow’. There was no support from the government and no sponsors for fencing so my mother used to take loans and mortgage her jewelry. That’s how they used to support me in the beginning 10 years of my career,”
- Bhavani Devi about her hurdles
“In fact my entire family supported me. My brother used to play cricket but since he is the first child, he had to go for a job to support the family. It wasn’t exactly easy as there was no historical achievement in the sport, no one to look up to, and we didn’t know how to reach the international level. I was not sure whether I am going on the right path or not. All we athletes are spending our whole lives on winning some medal. We can’t go back again if something happens. It is a very risky career especially a sport like fencing. But not a single time, they hindered me. Everyone who has supported me is important to me. Even the ones who called after they saw me winning a competition and gave some money voluntarily,”
- Bhavani Devi about the support she received from her family
Slowly Bhavani Devi hard work got recognized and she started to receive scholarships and support funds. She was also one among the 15 athletes selected for the Rahul Dravid Athlete Mentorship Programme “Go Sports Foundation“ in 2015.
“Then slowly I started to receive scholarships and support from the state government and the KIIT University happened. Before I joined KIIT University, I had heard about Samanta Ji but I didn’t believe that story. Many people told me about what are the world he has been doing for children and sportspersons. I was like it’s not possible. But when I joined KIIT, I realized no, if we are willing to do, anything can be done in the world. That’s how I see Samanta sir. It’s not easy to let someone else’s dream come true. When I met I was like, ‘Why I couldn’t meet you before?’ Because if I met him, I would have won in both Rio and Tokyo Olympics. But better late than never. The support KIIT is giving to sportspersons is unbelievable. The facilities they are giving here are seen nowhere else in India. As an athlete, after the medal, the felicitation we receive gives us the energy to move forward. That is very important which I received here. The moral support,”
- Bhavani devi about the support she received from KIIT
She has also mentioned our honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his interaction and special attention with players.
“There’s a big change this time. All the participants and winners are receiving support. We met PM Narendra Modi and he remembers our names and stories and he interacted with all. It is really great to come from our Prime Minister and really important other than the financial support. In fact, all states are bestowing their players. There are many factors that affect the winning and for me, this Olympics was an experience of how I could win the next one. I believe if one gives 100 percent there will be the result,”
- Bhavani devi about PM Narendra Modi
”When I play fencing, I feel more powerful, responsible, and courageous. Fencing made me a better athlete, a better person. It has helped me to understand the real meaning of life. Because if I were not playing fencing. I would rather be a very normal girl. I wouldn’t understand life this much or know other cultures or what it is about having an objective in life or about planning, discipline, determination, and education.”
- Bhavani devi about Fencing
Below are the list of competitions where Bhavani Devi has won medals.
2009 Common Wealth Championship held in Malaysia
2010 International Open, Thailand;
2010 Cadet Asian Championship, Philippines;
2012 Common Wealth Championship, Jersey;
2015 Under-23 Asian Championship, Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar;
2015 Flemish Open;
Silver medal at the 2014 Asian Championship in the Philippines under 23 categories;
Gold Medals at the 2012 Common Wealth Championship, Jersey;
Gold Medals at the 2014 Tuscany Cup, Italy.
Hindustan times article has been Bhavani Devi : https://bit.ly/3r73UuZ