“I created history by becoming the first Indian fencer to win silver in the Asian Championships!”

“I was 11 years old when I had to select a sport as an extracurricular activity in school. Fencing was the one least chosen by my classmates, but it sounded unique, so I signed up for it. Soon after, I saw a duel for the first time; it felt like a game of chess!

But every year, the girls who took up fencing with me would drop out. And soon, I was the only girl left! Fencing was too unknown to be taken seriously as a sport, but my parents encouraged me. They’d say, ‘If this is what you love, you have our support!’

And they didn’t just say it, they showed it too. My father was a priest and Mumma, a homemaker. To buy me my first ever fencing kit, Mumma sold her jewellery worth Rs.6000. My parents would spend hours in various offices trying to help me find sponsors for my training and competitions abroad. They’d come home exhausted, but always put on a smile for me.

Every day I’d see my family struggle and think, ‘If I fail, I’ll let them down.’ And that’s how I continued to feel at the start of my career when I’d lose frequently, because even though I was working hard, I needed a mentor. Thankfully, I was spotted at a tournament by a coach, who agreed to train me!

With his help, I was able to win gold at the Under-17 national championships! Even though I’d finally started winning, I almost gave up fencing in 2013. The cost to participate and train was way beyond what my parents could afford. At the time, they’d already taken a loan of Rs 10 lakhs. I told Mumma, ‘I can’t see our family in this state.’ But all she said was, ‘All of this will pay off!’

And that’s what pushed me–her faith in me. So I trained harder and in 2014, I created history by becoming the first Indian fencer to win silver in the Asian Championships! Still, as time passed, I needed more support; it was a constant struggle.

I remember, once, when my parents couldn’t pay for me to participate in a tournament abroad, I wrote to CM Jayalalithaa ma’am requesting for help. She invited me to her home and offered to cover my expenses. I felt like luck was finally on my side!

And after all the trials and tribulations, this year, I got the best news– I qualified for the Tokyo Olympics and became the first Indian fencer to do so! I got my whole family on a call to thank them. I was crying so much on video that Mumma thought I hadn’t qualified! So she kept encouraging me, ‘I’m sure you’ll make it next time, beta.’ When I told her she misunderstood, she was ecstatic!

And recently, after winning a championship, I was finally able to repay our 10 lakh loan! I could see the relief on my family’s face. I’m even planning to surprise my family by buying them a home. And my only dream is to see Mumma proudly hanging my gold medal on a wall there!”

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