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Will keep working hard to improve technical aspects: Bhavani Devi

Indian fencer CA Bhavani Devi has said that the important lesson which she learnt from the Tokyo Olympics was to keep the hard work going.

“The one lesson I learnt from Tokyo is to keep working hard. Because when I kept working hard after (2016) Rio, it brought me to Tokyo,” said Bhavani during a media interaction organised by the Sports Authority of India on Wednesday. Bhavani did not qualify for the Rio Olympics.

The sabre fencer further spoke about the improvements needed.

“I need to improve on fencing movements and strategies. I got good feedback from matches. I will continue to work hard and will be much better in future competitions. I got good feedback from my matches. I was in good control of outside pressure. I will continue to work hard and give much better results in future competitions than the previous ones.”

The 27-year-old, who became the first Indian to take part in fencing at the Olympics, won her first-round match 15-3 against Tunisia’s Nadia Ben Azizi. But Bhavani lost 7-15 in the second round to the eventual bronze medallist Manon Brunet of France.

Bhavani, ranked 42 in the world, also talked about her journey to Tokyo after failing to qualify in Rio. “I went for qualification in Rio. I prepared for it in a very short period. My preparation was good. I was very strong during the training. But I was totally stressed during the matches. I was very nervous. I didn’t play anything.

“For me, it has always been to give my best effort. The preparation, process and effort I give are more important than the result. From Rio, I had kept one thing in mind: enjoy the process. After Rio, I immediately started my preparation for Tokyo. I gave my 100% effort every day. If I had been thinking about the result, I would have been stressed. I think that helped me in qualifying for Tokyo.”

Bhavani also gave an insight into how the atmosphere was when the event was going on at the Makuhari Messe Event Hall in Tokyo. “After a very long time, we were having competition, that too in the Olympic Games. This competition is very intense. Even though it is like other competitions, it is still a different tournament. The situation and environment around you is very intense. For me, the first match was more important as it was the start. I was feeling a little bit nervous before the match.

“I started and finished well. In the second match, I felt like I gave my effort well to try and win the match. But I am okay with whatever happened in Tokyo. Now I am focusing on more important competitions coming up.”

Bhavani talked about the support she got from people after her campaign ended at the Olympics.

“After my qualification ended, I received a lot of support from many people. They sent messages like ‘we are praying for you’. After the match, I got messages from many people like ‘we woke up early in the morning to watch fencing for the first time’. It is very positive news for me.”

She also talked about athletes needing moral support while competing in big events like the Olympics.

“First thing is, we need moral support. Because that’s what I lacked in the beginning. I never complained about financial or other problems. It is very important to have moral support in every competition. In my competition, the World No. 1 (Olga Kharlan) lost in the first round. No one expected that. It is a very mental thing. You need to have a positive mind-set. You have to feel good during the tournament. It is not just about technical or physical. The mental aspect is very important. You need very good support for that.”

Bhavani, who started by practicing with bamboo sticks, believes that her performance in the Olympics will make things better for fencing in the country.

“Now everyone will dream about the Olympics. When I started fencing, I was not getting positive encouragement towards achieving this dream. It was not easy taking up fencing and pursuing it as an Olympic sport. But now, I am sure everyone will have started dreaming about Olympics and medals.

“I am sure, in 2024, we will have more fencers. There are a lot of junior fencers in India who are doing really well. There are fencers from Army and SAI centres doing well. The fencing association president has assured us about opening training centres with high-class facilities. I think it will help us groom players for 2024 as well as 2028 Games.”

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