India’s star fencer Bhavani Devi points to bad refereeing at Hangzhou and how that denied her a quarter-final victory, forcing her exit when she was...
India fencer Bhavani Devi in China yesterday. Pic.IOA
India’s star fencer Bhavani Devi is known to have a calm head on her shoulders along with swift hands and feet that have helped her excel in her sport. However, on Tuesday, she momentarily lost all calmness as she harshly pulled off her equipment and put it away, evidently upset after losing her quarter-final 7-15 to China’s Shao Yaqi.
A win would have ensured a historic first-ever Asian Games medal for India in fencing. However, it’s not the historic miss that hurts India’s World No. 32 fencer. It’s some of the decisions of the referee that she felt went against her which were much more painful.
‘I lost my concentration’
“Initially, I felt that around three or four touches were wrongly awarded against me. I immediately turned to the referee and asked him, but he was rather aggressive in his response to me. This upset me further and I lost my concentration. The Chinese girl is a good fencer [World No. 12], but I was in fine form, having come through in the pool stages as the top seed,” Bhavani told mid-day, moments after her defeat.
Earlier in the day, Bhavani, 30, was brilliant in the pool stages, winning five bouts on the trot. She first beat Singapore’s Juliet Jie Min Heng 5-2 and followed it up with identical 5-1 wins over Saudi’d Alhsna Abdulrahman Alhammad, Uzbekistan’s Zaynab Dayibekova and Bangladesh’s Roksana Khatun followed by a 5-3 win over Kazakhstan’s Karina Dospay.
Hard done by again
Bhavani, India’s only fencer at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, has never had it easy in the sport, particularly with referees. “This has happened many times before with me, particularly in the initial stages of my career. Most international referees would not respond to me in a positive manner because they did not consider Indian fencers to be any good. However, after I established myself [she’s a two-time Commonwealth Championships gold medallist and also won a historic first ever Asian Championships bronze medal in Wuxi, China, earlier this year], things changed for the better. However, today I was sad to see this happening to me once again. Since my opponent was Chinese, there is a possibility that there was some favouritism,” she added.
Bhavani’s coaches have taken up the matter with the fencing authorities at the Asian Games here and she believes that things will also be escalated to the International Fencing Federation. “After the World Championships [in Milan July 22 to 30], normally fencers take a break, but I was so determined to win at this Asian Games that I kept practising hard. This is extremely painful,” she signed off.