She came. She fought hard. And she conquered. Swapna Barman caught the imagination of the entire nation when she brought home the first Asiad gold in the heptathlon.
Who is Swapna Barman? – Highlights
- The young girl from Jalpaiguri, West Bengal has had a difficult journey. She grappled with poverty and injuries, only to come out much stronger.
- Swapna made her first mark at the Asian Athletics Championships of 2017. The gold gave her renewed confidence and self-belief.
- Armed with a talented coach and sponsorship from the best in the country, she focused only on the Asian Games. She promised her mother that she will come back home only with a medal.
- She fulfilled her promise, in spite of an excruciating toothache and made the entire country proud.
- Now, the golden daughter of India has started preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Imagine a life where every single day is a struggle. A new challenge knocks at your door every day. Basic sustenance is a herculean task. You have a family to support. There is an ailing father to look after and young siblings to take care of. There is no job security or any monthly paychecks. When life is filled with hardships, what gives you the strength to survive? Or, to fight back? What makes you wake up in the morning with renewed hope every single day? The answer is as simple as it could be, yet so profound. A dream!
The dream of becoming a world champion is what propels our heptathlon champion, Swapna Barman, each and every day. A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. Swapna is a prime example of this proverb. She has struggled with extra toes on feet, a bedridden father, poverty, and lack of support. However, sports have given her an opportunity to dream bigger and soar towards the sky.
Her story from a young girl with dreams in her eyes to a champion who won India its first gold medal in the heptathlon is truly inspiring. Let us take a glimpse into her life. Perhaps, it will give hope and motivation to us lesser mortals.
Proudest moment of my life! I am humbled and honoured by the love and support I have received from all over the world! I would like to thank my coach Subhash Sarkar, my physios, all the doctors who have helped me compete, @GoSportsVoices @Media_SAI @afiindia pic.twitter.com/IEIMV8QNsq
— Swapna Barman (@Swapna_Barman96) August 31, 2018
- Date of Birth: 29 October 1996
- Place of Birth: Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, India
- Height: 1.65m
- Weight: 50 kg
- Event: Heptathlon
- Parents: Panchanan Barman and Basana
- Coach: Bishwajit Majumdar, Sukanta Sinha, and Subhas Sarkar
- Swapna comes from a very poor family from Jalpaiguri in West Bengal. She lives in a simple house that does not even have concrete walls. Her father, Panchanan Barman, worked as a rickshaw puller. However, he is bedridden since 2013, due to a stroke.
- Her mother, Basana does various small jobs to help sustain the family. She worked at a tea estate earlier. Swapna has two brothers and one sister.
“We could never provide nutritious food as required by a sportswoman to our daughter. I wish she becomes a world champion,” Panchanan told PTI.
- Though her family could not help her financially, they have always supported her emotionally.
Interesting Facts about Swapna Barman
- Swapna has six toes on each of her feet.
- Her favourite singer is Lata Mangeshkar.
- She is extremely inspired by Usain Bolt.
- She was initially rejected by her coach Subhas Sarkar when she gave trials for the long jump.
- Swapna is a devotee of goddess Kali. She has built a small temple in her locality for the goddess using her own prize money.
What is heptathlon?
The competition includes a total of seven challenges. The first day of the tournament involves 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200m. Long jump, javelin, and 800m events finish off the second day. It is truly a test of stamina and consistency.
Swapna Barman – The Challenges and the Inspiring Journey
Swapna was born with six feet on both her legs. Thus, fitting into normal sports shoes was quite a task for her. She used to train in spite of the discomfort and pain. Also, the shoes used to wear out immediately and led to added expenses. Now, Adidas is taking care of that for her by sponsoring her shoes.
Back and ankle injuries had been plaguing Swapna since 2015. Since her family is completely dependent on her income through prize money. So, she took part in small time competitions as well. This aggravated her injuries. The continuous stress made it even more difficult for her to recover from her back injury.
In spite of that, she went on to win the gold at the Asian Athletics Championships of 2017. She got the top honour by scoring 5942 points in total. She was exhausted by the end and collapsed after the 800m race. Fortunately, she had accumulated enough points to be declared a winner.
“Swapna has not been cured of the old injuries even on Sunday. She had pain-killer tablets and injection before the 800-meter run which guided her towards the gold medal and also qualification for the World Championship, to be held in China from 22nd August to 30th August,” her coach Subhas Sarkar told my Khel in an interview.
Subhas has been training Swapna for a really long time now. She opted for him instead of the national coached. He advised her to take part in Hepthalon. Also, due to their long association, he is fully aware of her physical strength and weaknesses. Before Subhas, Swapna was being coached by Sukanta Sinha.
Nobody was expecting her to achieve this feat as she was out of the scene for quite some time. The tournament was a comeback of sorts for the young girl. The entire school was proud of its star pupil. “Since 2006 I was her games teacher. The school is proud of her. I wish she wins an Olympic gold,” her school sports teacher Bishwajit Majumdar told The Indian Express.
Last evening, we saw history being made!
She ran, she jumped, she threw, she performed through severe toothache. She became the first ?? heptathlete to win a Gold at the #AsianGames & 5th ever to cross 6000 points. What an awe-inspiring performance by @Swapna_Barman96!?(1/3) pic.twitter.com/pjkgdGdekK
— GoSports Foundation (@GoSportsVoices) August 30, 2018
She also won the gold in the Federation Cup of 2017 in the heptathlon event.
Her whole community has supported her right from the beginning of her career. Their confidence gave her a lot of positivity. She started getting a stipend from ONGC and was included in the Go Sports Foundation’s Rahul Dravid mentorship programme. This helped her immensely. A lot of financial burdens was taken off from her shoulder and she could focus on her training.
She was also supported by Hyderabad based Great Sports Infra. Anil Kumar, MD, Great Sports Infra, told Telangana Today, “We at Great Sports Infra partner with GoSports Foundation, which identifies promising sportsperson across various sports person at a young age and provides them the resources for best training, nutrition, kit, and guidance. We extended our support to Swapna Barman, a promising heptathlete and hope we can help her train even better and win laurels for India on a global stage. We are proud of her achievement in the Asian Games 2018.”
Sports Authority of India also provided her timely medical care. She could take part in the Asiads due to her treatment in Mumbai by Doctor Ananta Joshi.
The Asian Games Golden Moment
Reaching the Asiad platform wasn’t easy for Swapna. Once she did, she wasn’t going to lose out on the opportunity to prove her mettle. She was very close to pulling out in the finals due to an excruciating toothache. However, she didn’t. All the hard work she had put into and the dream that she has cherished propelled her to take that final leap. What a leap that was! She made history by being the first Indian athlete to win the Asiad gold in the heptathlon.
— India_AllSports (@India_AllSports) August 29, 2018
The gold came home with a score of 6026 points. It was her personal best as well. She won the javelin throw and the high jump and finished second in long jump and shot put. She etched her name in the books of history with his spectacular feat. Her achievement has given hope to many more young Swapnas. The image of a bandaged Swapna proudly displaying the Indian national flag will stay in our minds forever.
“I come from a very modest family background where financial struggles meant there was no easy access to training facilities. But despite these difficulties, I always dreamt that I would make a difference on the field. Because on the field, it isn’t about who you are, where you are from, and how long it has taken you to get there. This is what inspired me. Sports allow us all to dream a little,” Swapna Barman told the Bridge in an interview.
Swapna Barman’s story is incredible. Her fighting spirit has enabled her to reach the pinnacles of success. The Asian Games gold was just the first step. Now she has set her sight on the coveted Olympic medal. There is a long way to go for the young champion. She has the support and sponsorship she always craved for. Now nothing can stop her from fulfilling her dream and making our country proud!
|New Delhi, India