UPDATED: July 26, 2021, 11:46 AM IST
Bhavani Devi made India proud on Monday, July 26, as she won India’s first-ever fencing match at the Olympic Games. However, her dream Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games ended in the Round of 32 as she lost to World No. 3 Manon Brunet.
The defeat might have come early, but Bhavani Devi has certainly put Indian fencing on the Olympics map. She will forever be remembered as the pioneer of the sport in the country. All those years of hard work and staying away from the family have certainly worked in her favour. It was indeed a dream Olympic debut.
Bhavani, ranked 42, became the first Indian fencer to be at the Games. Her fighting spirit was evident in how she pushed herself and remained in the battle against Brunet, the much-fancied French Sabre fencer.
The 9-time India national champion went to the break trailing Brunet 2-8, but she made sure she collected 5 more points in the 2nd round. After that, Bhavani plate with a lot of freedom and kept putting pressure on Brunet by claiming plenty of touches, letting out battle cries. Though, the French fencer used all her experience to fend off the stiff threat from Bhavani and reach the pre-quarter-finals.
— #Tokyo2020 for India (@Tokyo2020hi) July 26, 2021
Despite the defeat in the Table of 32, Bhavani Devi will go down in the history of the Indian Olympics as one of the most influential athletes. From starting her fencing career with bamboo sticks to wielding the sabre with so much skill at the Games, Bhavani will certainly inspire quite a few to take up the sport.
Bhavani Devi’s impressive debut bout
She was in top form, delighting the Indian fans who had turned up early on Monday morning to watch the Table of 64. She defeated Tunisia’s Nadia Ben Azizi 15-3 to begin her Olympic journey with a dominant win. Bhavani attacked with precision and collected points when she was on the backfoot with some smart touches.
The 27-year-old from Chennai would have certainly made her Italian coach, Nicola Zanotti, proud with her performance on Monday. Having trained in Italy over the years, Bhavani has sharpened her technique, and it was evident with the way she went about the business at the Tokyo Games.
From choosing the sport at school as that was the only option left for her to qualify for the Olympics, it has been one memorable as well as an arduous journey for Bhavani.
Her first international medal came in 2009 — a bronze in the team event of the 2nd Commonwealth Championship in Malaysia — and she subsequently won medals in the Asian Fencing Championship in 2010 and a bronze (individual) in Commonwealth Championships in 2012.
She also won a silver in the Tournoi Satellite Fencing Championship in Reykjavik, Iceland, twice (in 2017 and 2018), which the ace fencer said gave her the confidence to aim higher.