Swapna Barman has six toes on each foot. The sport that she plays – and of which she was proclaimed ‘Queen’ by many on Wednesday – involves seven events. A national heptathlon record has been written in her name and now she has an Asian Games gold to show. On Wednesday, she became the first Indian heptathlete to win an Asiad gold. She did so by notching up a remarkable 6026 points and became only the fifth woman to cross 6000 points in the event. One side of her face was bandaged so as to help her go about what she does best without letting a throbbing toothache get in her way. That toothache is only a reminder – for India’s most prodigious heptathlete, the world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.
Hailing from Ghospara village, on the outskirts of Jalpaiguri town in North Bengal, Swapna faced hardships quite early on in life. While her father was a rickshaw puller, her mother worked at a tea estate. Tragedy struck when her father suffered a stroke and was completely bedridden. Life became difficult for the family of six as they struggled for two square meals a day. At a very young age, Swapna knew she would have to take the lead and it was sports that provided her with a chance to fulfil her dreams.
Much of Swapna’s initial athletics career witnessed a lot of struggle as she could neither run properly nor afford the proper running shoes. But life’s not about how hard of a hit you can give… it’s about how many you can take, and still keep moving forward. Ignoring the pain and defying all odds, she kept fighting on and all it required was the motivation at the right time.
Swapna Barman loved to run from a tender age. It was back then that her current coach Subhash Sarkar noticed her talent and took her under his wings. Thereafter, she started making waves across the athletic fraternity in Bengal. Results came thick and fast as young Swapna won three gold medals in the Asian School Games in Malaysia.