First Indian fencer to qualify for the Olympics, C. A. Bhavani Devi is looking to test her new techniques and strategies during the National Games and use them at the big-ticket events ahead.
The 29-year-old, who won the gold medal in the Commonwealth Fencing Championship last month, will be one of the attractions at the multi-sport event in Gujarat.
"I have changed my coach, my technique, my strategies, everything is changed now. We have more important events, like the Olympic qualification in April. So I need to work on my strategies. I have to apply them on all my opponents, both beginners and experienced ones and see how it works," she said during a virtual interaction conducted by SAI.
"Sabre is a very quick sport, you can't take time in between touch, you can't think and decide what you want to do in those milliseconds.
"So it is still a risk to try new techniques in National Games because it is like a show, everyone going to watch. So I need to perform well but at the same time, I need to do my work (new techniques) which can help me in bigger tournaments." The Chennai-born Bhavani has parted ways with Italian coach Nicola Zanotti and is currently being coached by legendary French fencer Christian Bauer.
Bhavani said Indian fencers will need more international exposure to compete with the best in business.
"Right now fencing is in the developing stage, we definitely have a long way to reach a stage where we are able to give a tough fight to top fencers in the world," she said.
"We are starting more domestic competitions so players can compete with fencers who have taken part in some international competitions. So they can understand their level and players who have taken part in international competition can also understand and can improve much better.
"We are developing, we are progressing in a good way. We just need more time. We are getting medals in some competitions but to reach the podium in the bigger competitions we need more exposure." Bhavani said coaches also need to get more exposure to improve their technical aspects.
"Coaches also need to go for more international competitions, to understand what levels other athletes are playing, what levels we are in. What kind of technical aspects do we need to work on.
"We need to understand what strategies work for Indian athletes. So we have to understand that we need more competition and we need to have more international exposure.
"In France, they have hundreds of Olympic and World Championship medal winners. So to reach that kind of level, we need more competitions." The 42nd-ranked Indian fencer had finished 23rd at the World Cup in Istanbul. She reached the second round in World Championships in July before retaining her title at Commonwealth Championships in August.
Bhavani said there was not much support during her junior days, so she is training more time overseas to make up for it.
"Earlier we didn't have enough support. We were not going for many competitions, maybe one or two in a year. So earlier, I lacked that experience," said Bhavani, who has been training in Europe.
"For example, in my junior level, I never took part in any junior world-level competitions. When I was in cadet like under 17, I had the chance to compete at the junior level but other than that, I never took part in any junior level competition.
"So that experience which I lacked sometimes affected me in senior level too ... so to bring that experience back I need to train abroad with other international players regularly, so in long term, I can improve myself."