India’s international sabre fencer Bhavani Devi has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics starting July 23 by virtue of improving her world ranking to 42, confirmed by the Fencing Association of India. The 27-year-old from Chennai is the first Indian fencer ever to make the cut for the Olympics.

Early life

Devi was born on August 27, 1993 in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Her father is a temple priest while her mother is a homemaker. Since the age of 10, she has been drawn to sports. Devi studied at Muruga Dhanushkodi Girls Higher Secondary and then attended St.Joseph’s Engineering College in her hometown.

Sports: Fencing

Born: August 27, 1993, Chennai


So what is fencing?

Fencing is the recreational sport of swordplay and is related to combat sports. Competitive fencing is one of the five activities which have been featured in every modern Olympic Games, the other four being athletics, cycling, swimming, and gymnastics. Fencing was one of the first sports to be played in the Olympics. 

Fencers learn to hone their strategies against opponents of varying skill levels and build up physical endurance, agility, and accuracy.

In which form of fencing is the specialization of bhavani devi?


The 27-year old trailblazer has given fencing an identity in India and has won laurels at the international level through her hard work and determination. The Tamil Nadu fencer competes in the sabre category.

‘She was trying to qualify for the Olympics from 2012’

The eight-time national champion had failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics. However, she stepped up efforts to secure qualification for the Tokyo games and continued to train in Italy under coach Nicola Zanotti before the COVID-19-induced shutdown halted the qualification process. The Tokyo Olympics scheduled to be held in 2020 were put off owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and are scheduled to take place from July 23 to August 8 this year.

SAI coach Sagar Lagu, who trained Bhavani Devi at the SAI centre in Thalassery, Kerala from 2008 to 2015, said she had qualified due to her hard work and dedication. “I am delighted for her. She was trying to qualify for the Olympics from 2012. This is the first time any Indian fencer has qualified for the Olympics,” he said.

“It is due to her hard work and dedication that she has secured qualification for the Tokyo Games,” Lagu added.

Recalling her struggles early in the career, he said Bhavani Devi did not give up during tough times early (in her fencing career) and worked hard to achieve her goals.

“She went through tough times but hard work gave her the results. She did not give up though she faced hard times early in her career to achieve her goals,” he said of Bhavani Devi, who is training in Italy presently.

Bhavani Devi, who is the first Indian fencer to win gold at an international event, did not let the COVID-19 enforced lockdown affect her preparations and had trained with coach Zanotti having online sessions.

Tournaments and medals

Starting from the Bronze medal at 2009 CommonWealth Championship held in Malaysia, Bhavani Devi has won Bronze medals in 2010 International Open, Thailand; 2010 Cadet Asian Championship, Philippines; 2012 CommonWealth Championship, Jersey; 2015 Under-23 Asian Championship, Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar and 2015 Flemish Open. In the 2014 Asian Championship under 23 category in the Philippines she bagged the Silver medal becoming the first Indian to do so. After her successful 2014 Asian Championship Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa honored her with INR three lakh as financial aid for training in the US. In 2015, she became one of the 15 athletes selected ‘Go Sports Foundation’ for Rahul Dravid Athlete Mentorship Programme

.Bhavani Devi has received 2 Gold Medals, one each at the 2012 CommonWealth Championship, Jersey and the 2014 Tuscany Cup, Italy. She finished fifth in the Viking Cup 2016 Icelandic International Sabre Tournaments held at Reykjavik and is a prospective candidate for fencing from India at the 2020 Olympics. She won a silver medal in the women’s sabre individual category in the 2019 Tournoi Satellite Fencing Competition in Ghent, Belgium, after losing to Bashta Anna from Azerbaijan She made history by becoming the first Indian to win a gold medal at the senior Commonwealth Fencing Championship in Canberra in the sabre event. She beat Catriona Thomson from Scotland in the semi-finals and then defeated England’s Emily Ruaux. She trains in Italy as well as at the Sports Authority of India in Kannur.

Tokyo Qualification 

Tokyo Qualification for fencing is primarily based on World Rankings -Team World Rankings as well as Individual World Rankings. For every weapon and gender, the top 4 teams on the Team World Rankings as on April 4, 2020 will qualify a team, consisting of 3 fencers each. Then, from among the teams ranked 5th – 16th, the top team from each continent -Europe, Asia-Oceania, Africa and Pan America – will qualify. If any continent doesn’t have a team ranked in the 5th – 16th range then the highest ranked team not already qualified will take their place. Once the team qualification has been determined, each of the fencers participating in the team event will compete in the corresponding individual event as well. And in addition 10 individual fencers per event will qualify from countries that do not already have a team, with a maximum of 1 fencer per country. Of these 10 individual fencers two will be the highest ranked eligible fencers in Europe two will be the highest ranked in Asia-Oceani one highest ranked in Africa and one highest ranked in Pan-America. In addition, there will be 4 continental qualification tournaments in April 2020 – one for each continent  consisting only of fencers not qualified via rankings, with the winners punching their ticket to Tokyo. 

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