Bhavani Devi becomes first Indian fencer to qualify for Olympics

Chennai, Mar 14 (PTI) Tamil Nadu’s CA Bhavani Devi has become the first ever Indian fencer to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The sabre fencer secured a spot in the World Cup in Hungary after the hosts lost in the quarterfinals of the team event, allowing South Korea to progress to the semi-final.

Bhavani Devi qualifies 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.

The 27-year-old’s qualification will be confirmed when the rankings are made official on the aforementioned date.

“It is a historic moment as @IamBhavaniDevi becomes the 1st ever fencer from India to qualify for the @Olympics in women’s individual sabre on basis of Adjusted Official ranking at the Men’s and Women’s Sabre World Cup in Budapest. Many congratulations!,” Sports Authority of India tweeted.

Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju congratulated Bhavani Devi on her qualifying for the Olympics.

“Congratulations to Indian fencer Bhavani Devi who has qualified for Tokyo Olympics! She has become the 1st ever Indian fencer to achieve the feat. My best wishes to @IamBhavaniDevi,” he tweeted.

The eight-time national champion had failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

However, she stepped up efforts to secure qualification for the Tokyo games and continued to train in Italy under coach Nicola Zanotti before the COVID-19-induced shutdown halted the qualification process.

The Tokyo Olympics scheduled to be held in 2020 were put off owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and are scheduled to take place from July 23 to August 8 this year.

SAI coach Sagar Lagu, who trained Bhavani Devi at the SAI centre in Thalassery, Kerala from 2008 to 2015, said she had qualified due to her hard work and dedication.

“I am delighted for her. She was trying to qualify for the Olympics from 2012. This is the first time any Indian fencer has qualified for the Olympics,” he said.

“It is due to her hard work and dedication that she has secured qualification for the Tokyo games,” Lagu added.

Recalling her struggles early in the career, he said Bhavani Devi did not give up during tough times early (in her fencing career) and worked hard to achieve her goals.

“She went through tough times but hard work gave her the results. She did not give up though she faced hard times early in her career to achieve her goals,” he said of Bhavani Devi, who is training in Italy presently.

Bhavani Devi, who is the first Indian fencer to win gold at an international event, did not let the COVID-19 enforced lockdown affect her preparations and had trained with coach Zanotti having online sessions. PTI