Swapna Barman – Overcoming pain more than opponents

It was pain more than her opponents that Swapna Barman had to overcome to clinch the Asian Games gold. And she overcame that well, something she is used to now. 

Swapna Barman won a historic Asian Games gold in heptathlon, battling through pain.   -  AFP

Heptathlete Swapna Barman had to get the better of more than just her competition, she also had to endure a battle of pain, before she claimed a historic gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games on Wednesday.

While battling pain in her feet — she has 12 toes — due to ill-fitting shoes, a disc bulge, injuries to her knee and ankle have become a routine, an excruciating toothache tested her limits at the Asian Games. But she fought on to win the heptathlon gold and became a darling of the nation.

Swapna heaves a sigh of relief after a rest day and a hectic schedule. "It is good to be back competing. Winning the gold, especially after battling so many injuries is wonderful," she tells Sportstar from Jakarta.

The 21-year-old is never bogged down and always has a plan in place. Even if it fails, she takes it in her stride. "We are athletes. We are prone to injuries. It happens. We have to overcome injuries. Yeh aadat ho gaya (I am used to it)," she says. 

"I always think I have more injuries because I compete in more events. That's how it is, right? Or at least, that's how I look at it. It makes me feel at ease. More the injuries, more the motivation," she adds.

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For Swapna, quitting was never an option. But what made her continue? "I had to do this for my family. They needed this medal, especially after all the sacrifices, the motivation they have given me. I had to do this for my coach Subash Sarkar, GoSports, SAI, the athletics federation. They have all backed me to the hilt," she explains. 

The Asian Games has given her an unforgettable experience. "Whatever I used to do in my free time, I couldn't do the same. I couldn't sing because of my tooth pain. I couldn't eat properly. I just ate dal-chawal (rice and dal) and bananas. The only thing which was constant was my diary. I write it every day," she says.

 

Seven sports not a problem

While most athletes have to concentrate on one event and get done with, Swapna has to excel in seven to make a mark. However, the enormous task of doing well in multiple events has never been a problem. "In fact, I love heptathlon. It is the variety that gets me excited. There is no monotony. Every day there is a different 'sport', there is a different training, there is a different challenge. That is what I love. They say challenges make you stronger. It is now safe to say heptathlon has made me stronger."

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She is quick to add, "But I don't like the athletic events, especially the 800m. The 100m and the 200m are fine but not 800m. It might be due to the pain in my toes or something, but I don't prefer it. But, I cannot complain too."

With shoe manufacturers abundant, is getting a shoe that fits six toes in each foot difficult to get? "So far, it has been. But we are searching for it. I am sure, we will get a shoe that fits my feet. It is not beyond this world," she concludes.