Bhavani Devi piques young fencers' interest in sport

Quite a few excited young fencers and some coaches asked questions to Bhavani during the videoconference organised by the Fencing Association of India and SAI

From taking to the sword to bunk classes, to becoming one of India's brightest hopes for Tokyo Olympics, Bhavani Devi's success story is special.

C.A. Bhavani has been an outlier in the real sense of the word. The 26-year-old from Chennai has given fencing, one of the oldest disciplines in Olympics, an identity in India and has ignited the minds of youngsters, who are keen to take up the sport as a profession. 

It was all evident during the videoconference, organised by Fencing Association of India and Sports Authority of India, on Monday when quite a few excited young fencers aged between 10 and 15 years and some coaches asked questions to Bhavani, who is pretty close to making the cut for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. 

While few wanted to know the number of hours to practice, a few others were keen to know the difference in the system in India and Italy, where she has been training for the last three years.

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In the lockdown period, Bhavani said she trains for nearly three hours every day focussing on footwork and mental training. According to the Olympic aspirant, for a sport that places importance to mind over body, sleep is very essential. “We [fencers] need to sleep eight to nine hours a day,” she said. 

Bhavani said shifting to SAI (Thalassery, Kerala) from Tamil Nadu was a major decision that changed her career for the good. “It was a big decision and probably the best. Staying away from home changed me a lot. It helped when I was training in Italy,” she said. “Training with coach Sagar Lagu [in Kerala] was a big boost.”

In Italy, Bhavani said most fencers decide when to train [and not their coaches largely]. "That’s the biggest difference,” she said.

In Livorno (Italy), the eight-time National champion trains five days a week, with focus on footwork followed by technical and tactical workouts in the morning and evening sessions with her coach Nicola Zanotti.

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"Italian fencers don't do much weight training and their fitness program is different. They tend to do more agility exercises and give importance to concentration,” she said.