Hailing from Chandigarh, Divya Beniwal of Jesus and Mary College, Delhi University, has been playing Fencing for four years now. We spoke to this Political Science student about her offbeat sport of choice:
1. Fencing is quite unheard of, especially in Delhi University. How would you describe the sport to someone who has never heard of it, in one line?
Fencing is basically a royal sport of sword fighting. It has three events (Epee, Sabre and Foil) with different rules and techniques depending on the body target area. The sword is blunt and there’s protective clothing so there are minimal chances of injury.
2. What made you take up Fencing over the more commonly played and watched sports like Tennis or Badminton?
The fencing practices in my hometown, Chandigarh, are held in the school my mother was the Principal of; so every time I went there, this game fascinated me. One of the reasons is that it involves swords and another that it’s unique. Even though it’s not so popular in India, but in Ivy League colleges abroad it’s quite famous. With little practice people can mostly play other games and Fencing is something which requires proper training, equipment and coaching.
3. For someone who wants to learn Fencing, who are the athletes one can look up to?
As such I have no knowledge of the famous athletes from across the globe, because fencing is something which does not have consistent results at the Olympics or other international championships. The results tend to vary every year. While playing, one requires stamina, tactics, physical strength and mental focus all at the same time. For me, the inspiration has always been my coach and the senior players from other states.
4. What is the scope for the sport in India? Do you see it improving in the coming years?
This sport is gradually becoming popular and a lot of people find it quite interesting. There are a lot of fencers and coaches in India who have been involved with the game from the past 20 years. Every year a lot of them participate in National and International Championships. The results have started improving and 3 medals were bagged by India at Junior Commonwealth Championship in Cape Town recently. But still, Team India lags behind in terms of facilities and provision of foreign coaches for improvement in techniques.
There’s also a quota in defense services for fencing.
Another thing that hinders good fencers from playing at the international level is the availability of funds. The Sports Ministry of India should be more encouraging towards other upcoming sports as well. They should provide with better infrastructure so that athletes can perform better at international level.
5. Does DU provide you with sufficient sports infrastructure? How can DU bring more attention to offbeat sports like Fencing?
Personally, I’ve never faced any problem regarding the infrastructure and other related facilities. And the support of the sports teacher has been incomparable. But I would like to add that students in other colleges that do not rank high are not vested with the same opportunity, which is very unfair on the part of the management. I just hope that the increasing awareness changes the “game” for them as well.
The equipment and sports kit of this sport are expensive which hinders participation. This is one of the reasons that fencing has not gained popularity among the students. I think if other colleges of DU take the initiative of promoting the game and providing equipment and coaches then only fencing can be on a broader platform.
6. How do you manage to strike a balance between being a sportsperson and a student?
I think in today’s time being good only in academics is not enough, one has to give in extra efforts to stand out in life. Being involved in sports enhances leadership qualities, physical fitness and improves one’s confidence. I have been involved in sports since class 5. I used to play roller hockey earlier and then started fencing in class 10. Since then I have always been regular in my practices. But I have always made sure that I do not miss my classes and have been a regular student. It is only during my tournaments that I am unable to attend classes. I have been as passionate about my game as I have been for my studies. I hardly studied at home after school but am always attentive and regular in school and college.
7. How does being a sportsperson give you an edge over others?
I have learned a lot because of fencing, I got the opportunity to interact with athletes from all over the country, almost all the states take part in the national championships, I became independent, self-reliant and learned how to travel and accommodate without the comforts of AC and good food. I think it has given me a unique identity and I’m very proud of it. It just feels good to be different.
Divya credits her coach, Mrs. Charanjeet Kaur, parents and sports teachers for being a constant source of motivation and providing her with the opportunity to play 13 nationals and 1 international championship, the Senior Asian Fencing Championship, so far. She is all set to start training interested students from JMC in fencing very soon.