Image Credit: Twitter/Bhavani Devi
The first Indian Olympic sabre fencer, CA Bhavani Devi has arrived in Tokyo.
Is she a chartered accountant?
No, she is not. Though her initials may lead you to think otherwise. Born in a middle-class family to a temple priest and a homemaker, Chadalavada Anandha Sundararaman Bhavani Devi hails from Washermanpet, a northern neighbourhood of Chennai, Tamil Nadu. She is the youngest of five siblings. An alumnus of Muruga Dhanushkodi Girls' Higher Secondary School, Tondiarpet, Devi began fencing in sixth grade.
Love at first sight
A few new sports -- boxing, swimming, squash and fencing -- had been introduced in her school as part of the Sports in Schools programme kick-started by then CM J (late) J. Jayalalithaa. When it was Devi's turn, all the other sports had already been filled in for, and fencing was her only option. Since this sport was new to her, she took an instant fascination to it and was raring to pick up the sword and begin her practice. After finishing her 10th grade, she joined the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Thalassery, Kerala.
Fencing was still in its nascent stage in our country back when Devi began her journey. The initial struggles were related to finance. Devi was performing well in the Junior category and her family rallied by her side, helping her with their sacrifices. When she moved to the Senior category, however, her performance dwindled, and that's when she was at the receiving end of unsolicited advice such as, 'You need to either study or work' -- because, 'what's the future of fencing in India?' Being a woman practicing a lesser-known sport has been no cakewalk for Devi. She had her family by her side and their support is what gave her the confidence to focus on fencing and honing her skills. During the Covid-induced lockdown, the unstoppable Devi put her kitbag and a few bricks to good use for target practice and footwork on her terrace.
Devi has won several accolades. Earlier, she had shared on Twitter:
A quick look at her track record:
Devi's studies never took a backseat. She also holds an MBA degree from Anna University.
Dream come true
Devi had been chasing the Olympic dream for a long time and it has finally come true, thanks to her three-D formula: Discipline, Dedication and Determination. Her mother has been a great source of strength on her arduous fencing journey. Her father would have been so proud to watch her achieve this milestone (He passed away in November 2019. Om Shanti). She has been training under Italian Coach Nicola Zanotti since the past five years. Devi is confident that her sport will gain momentum back home and that more women will be inspired to join fencing after watching her perform at the Tokyo Olympics.
What's her lucky charm?
Devi feels lucky to have the blessings and prayers of 135 crore Indians as the Games are set to begin. Let's wish her all the best. Allez, fencer Bhavani Devi! Go for Gold! Cheer4India.