Can fencing in India develop like shooting after its Olympic debut in Tokyo? | More sports news

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NEW DELHI: In India, and to some extent internationally as well, sports accessible to aspiring players at all levels have had a healthier growth chart. This is most evident at the base, when a child wants to pick up a cricket bat, hockey stick or soccer ball to feel the pleasure before starting the sport. This is where cricket and football thrive in India; and a sport like Formula 1, tax issues aside, has been kicked out.
In the early 2000s, shooting was also largely a royal sport that required weapons, pistols, rifles, and ammunition that were still expensive. There weren’t enough local firing ranges for training. Quality base coaches were also scarce. But that all changed after 2004, when Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won silver at the Athens Olympics, and then in 2008, when Abhinav Bindra won gold in Beijing.
Sport has never looked back since.
Key to shooting growth has been accessibility, which improved further after two medals on the biggest stage, followed by two more – Gagan Narang and Vijay Kumar – at the London 2012 Olympics. Former shooters were more interested in training. They opened up private ranges for aerial weapons in the neighborhood and invested in weapons to improve availability for those who couldn’t afford it earlier. The result was that the sport was inundated with young people and the supply chain was strengthened.
At Tokyo 2020/21, India added another discipline to its list of sports that appeared at the Games. Indian fencing made its Olympic debut, and Bhavani Devi woke India up at 5.30am to watch a sport on TV that had previously succumbed to the control of the remote.
“The daughter of a priest is the pride of India”: such slogans have invaded the media.
Bhavani plays in the women’s saber event. Epee and foil are the two other disciplines of combat sport that India knows a little more now.
She lost in the second round, but had made the biggest point even before winning her first game. India had a fencer at the Olympics for the first time, and that’s where the sport would like to build now and maybe win an elusive Olympic medal by Los Angeles 2028 to follow in the footsteps. shooting.

Nadia Ben Azizi of Team Tunisia, left, during their match against CA Bhavani Devi of Team India in Tokyo 2020 (Photo by Julian Finney / Getty Images)
CAN IT HAPPEN?
As with shooting, the equipment needed for fencing is not readily available, notably the blade or saber, which has yet to be imported by Indian shooters through the few distributors who sell the equipment in India.
All the paraphernalia, including the wetsuit, helmet, blade and shoes, can cost between Rs 25,000 and Rs 30,000. But there are some training requirements for which fencers need an academy. or a training center.
The sport is played on a specialized aluminum floor because it needs a conductive surface for the current to flow. This floor is called the track.
An electronic scoring device, to which both players are wired, counts points which are calculated based on the number of times a player’s blade hits the opponent. The points awarded depend on which part of the blade hits the scoring areas on the player’s body. These vary in saber, epee and foil.
The benchmark is that the track and the scoring device together cost in lakhs. This is where investors, businesses and private academies come in, if sport is to thrive locally.
“The track was only imported from outside earlier and cost around 5.5 lakh rupees,” said Arjun Anand, owner of Anandco Sporting Corporation, a distributor and seller of sports equipment in Jalandhar, in the Punjab. TimesofIndia.com.
“So not many people would put their money in the game when it comes to opening training centers.”
The company has also installed the track at various Sports Authority of India (SAI) centers, including the National Sports Institute (NIS) in Patiala and the SAI center in Ahmedabad.
The good news is that the track doesn’t need to be imported now and is made in India itself. More importantly, it costs a lot less.
“We are now making and selling an international standard track for around Rs 3.5 lakh,” Anand revealed, before making a very important point. “This has led to increased interest and inquiries. We can even make a mini version of it, which can cost even less.”
A standard track is 18 meters long. In training, two to three pairs of shooters can train on it, but only one match can be played in competition, since it requires the intervention of the scoring device. It costs around Rs 50,000 and is also made in India now.
Without Covid, Anand says, a few more installations would have also been done by now.
“Once the pandemic has been ruled out, we should have around 20 to 25 immediate orders from academies, schools and so on. He added to TimesofIndia.com.
It is an encouraging prospect for the sport.

Nadia Ben Azizi of Team Tunisia, left, during their match against CA Bhavani Devi of Team India in Tokyo 2020 (Photo by Julian Finney / Getty Images)
THE ACADEMIES
Despite “external” aid, when it comes to infrastructure for any sport, the governing federation plays an important role.
The Indian Fencing Association (FAI), led by Rajeev Mehta, is helping by purchasing equipment for young fencers through the Khelo India program.
“Fencing is a very equipment-based sport. When I started I played with sticks and on the cement floor. I used to hit walls like an imaginary opponent,” said Bhavani during a conversation with reporters at an online press conference. Olympic Games.
Infrastructure in India has undoubtedly come a long way since those days, although it is still a work in progress.
The Khelo India program allows federations, including the FAI, to support existing academies with its “Gradation and Incentivization” program according to eligibility criteria. These academies are divided into national, regional and state centers; and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) sanctions incentives after inspection by its experts.
“We plan to open training centers in 250 districts (across India),” FAI General Secretary Bashir Khan told TimesofIndia.com days after the Tokyo Olympics ended on the 8th. August.
“In the first phase, we targeted 50 districts. Each of these centers will receive equipment of Rs 5 lakh per SAI (according to the gradation and incentive program). All private clubs or academies will be offered affiliation with the federation, ”said Khan.
“Interested private schools will be granted the status of academies and all possible assistance will be provided to them from the federation or the SAI.
These academies have received the name of Intermediate Performance Centers.
“Fencing is a very new sport (for India). We have training centers, but now we are going to have them all over India, which is a big step,” said Bhavani, when asked about the future of sport.

Team Tunisia’s Nadia Ben Azizi, left, during her match against Team India’s CA Bhavani Devi in ​​Tokyo 2020 (Photo by Julian Finney / Getty Images)
THE COACHES
Bhavani’s success re-energized the push for fencing. This can be seen in the FAI’s decision to immediately seek out a foreign saber trainer, for which the federation has been advertising and is receiving applications until October 20.
But to build a solid base, the base must first be strengthened with quality coaches. The FAI, Khan said, has covered this in its plans as well.
“This year, 30 fencing coaches are enrolled in programs at the INS Patiala. Apart from that, 65 coaches are part of a diploma course. So that should take care of the training part.
“We are planning to send 12 coaches to Hungary for exposure to training techniques,” Khan told TimesofIndia.com.
BREAKING THE BARRIERS
Without a doubt, Bhavani broke the glass ceiling of fencing in India. She is currently No. 50 in the world in women’s individual saber. In 2017, when she won the Satellite Fencing Championship in Iceland, she was No.36.
But in rising through the ranks in a sport almost “foreign” to India, Bhavani failed to gain the support that young athletes from other Indian sports usually receive today.
“When I started fencing, I did not receive a positive response or encouragement to realize this (Olympic) dream. It was not even easy to dream of the Olympic Fencing Games in India,” Bhavani said.
In 2008, when Bhavani had to travel to Korea to participate in the Asian Senior Championship, the association was unable to finance the expenses. Ultimately, the late Jayalalitha, who became the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, funded Bhavani.
But Bhavani said those days are now a thing of the past and the FAI is doing a lot to promote fencing like never before.
“FAI President Rajeev Mehta assured that they will open many training centers in India with high quality facilities in line with international standards,” Bhavani said.
“Everything is difficult before it becomes easy, so you have to take it step by step.”


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