Bhavani Devi becomes first Indian fencer ever to qualify for Olympics

CA Bhavani Devi is the first Indian to win a gold at the Commonwealth Championships. CA Bhavani Devi

Bhavani Devi has become the first Indian fencer in history to qualify for the Olympics. She qualified after Hungary lost to South Korea in the quarterfinals of the Fencing Sabre World Cup,

Who is Bhavani Devi?

CA Bhavani Devi picked up fencing in school and battled initial failure to win India's first international gold medal in the sport when she won gold in the Women's World Cup satellite tournament in Iceland in 2017.

In 2018, she would beat England's Emily Ruaux 15-12 to win gold in the Commonwealth Championships, the first Indian to do so in the tournament's 44-year history.

Last year, she had spent the COVID-19 pandemic-enforced lockdown training on her terrace, before moving to an indoor stadium in Chennai, and then once restrictions eased, to her coach's training base in Livorno, Italy.

The daughter of a temple priest in Washermanpet, Chennai, she battled societal pressure to reach the top of the game. "Despite belonging to a conservative background, my parents have never stopped me from pursuing what I like," she told ESPN, "Sport is far from a popular career choice for girls in my community (Tamil Brahmins) and my parents, even if they faced any flak over it from others, never let it affect me. They're just happy that I'm finding joy in what I do."

How did she qualify?

The Individual Sabre event has 34 entries in the Tokyo Olympics, 24 of which will be filled by members of teams that have qualified for the Sabre Team event. There are two individual spots for Asia and Oceania, which are decided basis world ranking.

With the Korean fencers qualifying via team-ranking route, Bhavani (world no. 42 currently) now occupies one of the two individual spots reserved for Asia and Oceania. Hence, she has qualified via AOR (Adjusted Official Ranking).