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02 Mar 2024, Edition - 3154, Saturday

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Fencing champion wins gold, battles for sponsors

Umaima Shafiq


RR Deepika Rani, a wheelchair-bound accounts graduate from Coimbatore, had recently won gold at the 12th Wheelchair Fencing National Championships in Chennai bringing glory to her city as a rare achiever.

Fencing, an ancient warfare tactic, became a recreational and competitive sport when the Fencing Association of India was established in 1974 with government accreditation in 1997. It is now affiliated with the Indian Olympic Association. Fencing is a duelling game between two armoured opponents using steel blades called sabres or epees. It is now becoming popular among wheelchair sportspersons.

Deepika told The Covai Post, “I started practising this game only last year during college at KGiSL in Sarvanampatti. I graduated this year. I was never interested in sports and did not know about fencing but was introduced to it by my coach Albert Premkumar in college.

“Previously, I had heard about wheelchair cricket and other games. On his advice, I watched a lot of fencing videos and became interested and learnt the game. He was also a physical director at Kumaraguru College of Technology (KCT), where my cousin Mohan Kumar was a volleyball player. So he invited me to KCT where they had some fencing equipment and allowed me to practice. It was a godsend and I soon became an expert.”

Albert then registered Deepika for the 12th Wheelchair National Fencing Championship on July 26-28 held at Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor stadium in Chennai.

“The fencing teams were very helpful at KCT, though they had only two sets of equipment they allowed me to practice. So, I could train well. This game can be played at team or individual levels with a referee who sets the time and points for each game. Thus if there are 15 points and three in a team, each member has to score five points.

“I won gold as a team member. There are three categories of fencing and each has its own armour and sabre or epee. It is mostly imported equipment and electronic so that when sword touches armour light flashes are seen.”

Deepika is happy that Chennai has many wheelchair fencers. She came back to Coimbatore determined to take up fencing as a career. She is confident of winning more medals and qualifying for national and Olympic Games.

However, her parents who are daily wage earners do not have the funds to buy fencing equipment. Deepika has appealed to the District Collector and the media for this and has got positive replies.

She is grateful to her parents, teachers, trainers and friends for their encouragement.

She said, “I am a single child and became paralysed from waist downwards after a polio attack when I was three months old. My parents ensured that I had proper schooling and helped make me what I am today.”

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