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'It was too late': India's first-ever fencer, Bhavani Devi, goes down fighting on Olympic debut

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Bhavani Devi Indian fencer
Manon Brunet (L) competes against Bhavani Devi in the women's individual sabre qualifying bout during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

India's first-ever fencer in the Olympics, CA Bhavani Devi, lasted two rounds at the Games, her historic maiden appearance ending with a loss to world number three Manon Brunet in the women's individual sabre event on Monday.

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The 27-year-old began her campaign with a confident 15-3 win against Tunisia's Nadia Ben Azizi but bumped into Rio Olympics semifinalist Brunet in the next round, which she lost 7-15.

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Bhavani said she committed mistakes against Brunet but will take the result in her stride.

“I didn't fence well in the first half but in the second half I tried to change something but it was too late. I am happy I fenced with one of the top fencers in the world,” Bhavani said of her contest against Brunet.

“In between, I was doing some mistakes but it is okay, sabre is very quick. It is the first time Indians will watch fencing, so I am very happy that I could perform in front of them.”

Indian fencer Bhavani Devi
Manon Brunet (L) competes against Bhavani Devi during the Women's Sabre Individual second round on day three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
India's Bhavani Devi
France's Manon Brunet (L) competes against India's Bhavani Devi. (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
Bhavani Devi
Tunisia's Nadia Ben Azizi (L) compete against India's Bhavani Devi in the women's individual sabre qualifying bout. (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

The sabre is the fastest of the fencing competitions in which opponents can slash anywhere above the waist. The fencer who touches the 15 point mark first is declared the winner.

In the other two events — foil and epee — only the tip of the sword can be used to target the opponent.

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The Chennai fencer said she has gained valuable experience from her Tokyo outing, which will help her in future challenges.

“It is my first Olympics and it could be better but I am okay with the experience I had from this Olympics. It will be a learning experience for me to improve myself. I did not qualify for Rio, I tried my best to qualify and that helped me to become stronger as a person and to move forward for Tokyo. From here onwards, I will be living my dream as an Olympian.”

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Bhavani said 'staying away from family and missing normal life' was the sacrifice she had to make to live her dream.

“I train in Italy. It is worth it and it is my family's dream, too, so I am happy,” she said adding that she worked on her basic footwork at her terrace during the COVID-19-induced lockdown.

Bhavani's aggression yielded points against Azizi but French Brunet used all her experience to negate the tactics of the Indian, who lost two points for going out of the arena.

The Indian could score only one point each in the first two periods but came back well in the third. Brunet was sharp and had a better technique as she scored points from distance.

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After trailing 2-8 going into the third and final round, Bhavani needed nothing short of a spectacular show in the final one, but Brunet largely remained untroubled in the nine-minute and 48-second match.

In the opening round though, Chennai's Bhavani was a much better player, taking advantage of Azizi's open stance that allowed her to score points quickly.

Bhavani did not concede a single point in the first three-minute period and raced to a commanding 8-0 lead against the Tunisian.

Nadia managed some touches in the second period but the Indian kept building her lead to win the contest in six minutes and 14 seconds.

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