Heptathlon athlete Swapna Barman gave India its eleventh gold medal in the ongoing Asian Games on Wednesday (29 August) after coming first with a total score of 6026 points in seven events. The victory was made extra special after it came on National Sports Day, the day dedicated to hockey legend Major Dhyanchand.
The Asian queen of heptathlon endured through 100m race, high jump, shot put, 200m race, long jump, javelin throw and finally the 800m race. She as a result became India’s first heptathlete to win a gold medal at Asian Games.
Already known to be an expert high jumper she sealed her victory after a very encouraging throw of 50.63m in the javelin throw to pull away from silver medallist China's Wan Qingling.
Soaring on toes -- six in each foot instead of five, and her mouth and chin taped because of a nasty toothache, Barman fought a stiff challenge that tested nerves, endurance and willpower. Pain, indeed, is a powerful motivator. The champ dedicated her medal to the country.
Many reports celebrated her achievement, highlighting her struggles and some hailed her identity as “rikchshaw-chaalak ki beti (daughter of a rikshaw-puller)“.
Her struggles were immense. A daughter of a rickshaw puller who suffered a stroke in 2013, her mother also had to leave her job to care for him full time. Owing to their humble conditions, she was also unable to intake proper nutrition required for athletes.
Another big problem for Swapna was six toes on each foot and being unable to afford customised shoes meant she had to train and compete in pain.
Her parents still continue to live in a house without concrete walls:
On the day of her event NDTV reported that Swapna's mother had locked herself in worship, inside a Kali temple and prayed for her during the various stages of the tough contest. “She (Swapna) has made this temple”, her mother said. Swapna pitched for the top spot on the podium with her best performance so far.
Swapna said she was engulfed in pain, but, she decided to forget it, very much on the first day itself. “The first day, I thought I won't be able to compete. It was unbearable. I thought what will happen to my hard work, I had to do it. I forgot the pain”, DNA reported.
Calling for a standing ovation, sports minister Rajyavardhan Rathore hailed Barman's "majestic performance" on Twitter.
Sportstar has reported that people flocked outside her tin-roofed house to congratulate her family, in Denguajhar near Jalpaiguri. Jalpaiguri District Sports Association’s athletics secretary Ujjal Das Choudhury said, “The credit for identifying her talent goes to Samir Das who spotted her capabilities first. It is sad that Samir is no more to see her realising her potential”.
Times of India reported that the athlete has made a plea for the special shoes she needs. “I use normal shoes worn by people who have normal five toes," she said, adding that it pains while she trains and her spikes and normal shoes make it even more difficult”.
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