Tami Nadu's C A Bhavani Devi became the first Indian Sabre Fencer in history, to qualify for the Olympics.
South Korea had to finish in the top four in the Sabre World Cup in Budapest, Hungary, for Devi to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. South Korea defeated Hungary in the quarterfinals on Sunday, March 14, to earn a spot in the semi-final. This allowed Devi to claim one of the two individual spots reserved for Asia and Oceania via Adjusted Official Ranking. Her significant strides in sabre fencing boosted her rankings to world No 42, reported ESPN.
The Indian fencer's qualification will be confirmed when the rankings are officially confirmed.
"We were in the playing hall. I was telling myself if this opportunity slips away, I still have one last qualification event (continental qualifiers in Seoul). The next thing I knew, I was weeping, and my coach was hugging me tightly. South Korea had won. I had been waiting for this moment all my life. Through all of last year, especially the lockdown, I carried it within me, holding on to this hope. Finally, I feel free," Devi said.
The Budapest event was the first major international fencing event ever since the pandemic struck the world. Devi continued her training in Italy under the Italian coach Nicola Zanotti long before the lockdown was imposed due to COVID-19.
Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju took to social media congratulated Devi for her phenomenal achievement.
Congratulating Devi, Sagar Lau, who trained Devi at the SAI centre in Kerala's Thalassery from 2008-2015, said that she secured qualification due to her hard work and dedication. The Centre congratulated her for the historical victory.
Recalling her struggles, Lau said that Devi never gave up in the initial phase of her career when she faced difficult times. "I am delighted. She has been trying to qualify for the Olympics since 2012. This is the first time any Indian fencer has qualified for the Olympics," The Times of India quoted Lau as saying.
The Tokyo Olympics will take place from July 23 to August 8. Earlier, it was scheduled to be held in 2020 but was put off owing to the coronavirus outbreak.