For the coming few days, you will hear Bhavani Devi’s name a lot, and sharing her story with the world is a small attempt on our part to make sure the discussion around the top athlete doesn’t die down once the Games end. 

She is the first Indian fencer to represent India at the Olympics, and our first fencer to win a game at the tournament.

Bhavani, a specialist in sabre, crashed out of the Tokyo Olympics with her round of 32 loss to Manon Brunet – the world number 3 – and while that is disappointing, it should not define Bhavani or her journey. 

If you think choosing fencing her career is bold, let me tell you, she went to her siblings’ school all by herself when she was only 1.5 years old. 

Her parents, a priest and a homemaker, reached the school scared and jittery to find her in the verandah, clutching onto her bag. That day they knew she was probably going to do things differently. 

They weren’t incorrect, were they? She enrolled herself for a fencing session in school because she wanted to stay out of classes, and never looked back.

Not when people underestimated her because of her gender.

Not when they did not give attention to her accomplishments.

Not when they refused to learn about the sport, she was making a mark in. 

Her mother went from pillar to post to get scholarships or financial aid for her very talented daughter. But it was tough, one would assume, because she wasn’t playing a popular sport. 

Like, who cares about fencing, right? Well, Bhavani did and now the nation will follow. It has to. Talking about the difficult financial situation, her father told The Indian Express:

Yes, her mother has sold jewellery, taken loans from banks and pleaded with bureaucrats. Bhavani’s uncles and siblings have had to chip in and we’ve asked for a crowdfund. We’re always paying off loans, and I’ve never had savings. But we are talking about an Olympics medal here. There was no way we would stop her.

Bhavani got lucky when renowned political leader Jayalalithaa decided to fund her. Later, GoSports Foundation helped her out. 

And she did not let anyone down. Once a young woman afraid of the darkness in her room, she is now lighting up every Indian’s face across the world.

In sports, a defeat is a defeat but in life, it need not be. She comes back to India with a lot to take pride in, and the promise of winning the medal in the future. 

She has already won in life.