When C.A. Bhavani Devi became the first fencer to represent India in the Olympics back in 2020, many budding fencers in Anantapur were delighted, hoping that it would pave the way for government support in the form of better infrastructure in the district for a sport that is expensive to pursue and is predominantly played in metropolitan cities.
However, the government’s ‘Pay and Play’ and ‘Pay and Coach’ policies adopted recently risk permanently denting the chances of the players from middle-class families and towns, say stakeholders.
The city has produced 25 fencers of some repute, who have represented the State as well as the country at several prestigious events abroad, including G. Pushpavathi who had won bronze in the 2010 National Games.
Fencing is primarily dependent on electronic systems for counting points in all three variants of the game, but surprisingly, the Anantapur Indoor Stadium does not have any electronic equipment to support the several national-level players training here regularly. Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh coach G. Pratap, who himself played in six nationals, credits District Fencing Association secretary A. Muralikrishna for his encouragement and efforts, which had kept the game alive for more than a decade in this remote corner of Andhra Pradesh.
Among those who had won medals at the national level are B. Pavani (U-17), who had also played in Singapore Open, and Ameena Sayeda, who won bronze at the national-level in the U-12 category in 2017. Those currently training in Anantapur are G. Junaid, who has been selected for the All India Universities Tournament to be played in Kashmir, P. Navaneet, B. Sai Geethika, S. Muskan, K. Kushal, and S. Ramakrishna who have represented the State in Junior Nationals or Sub-Junior Nationals.
Chief Coach G. Venkataramana told The Hindu that three shuttle courts have been leased out in the indoor stadium, but if good electronic equipment is sanctioned for the fencing players, the State could gain a lot.