Heptathlete with six toes returns to competition and wins gold
Frustrated by nagging injuries, 2018 Asian Games champion heptathlete Swapna Barman announced her retirement last September. Since the Asian triumph, she has competed only once in the heptathlon until last week. Just when everyone thought Swapna’s career was almost over, she made a surprise comeback at the Inter-Railway Championships in Kolkata in March where she won a silver medal.
At the Federation Cup this week, his first major competition since 2019, Swapna marked his comeback with a gold medal, racking up 5,800 points. But even for Swapna, who is used to dealing with adversity on and off the track, this was one of the toughest competitions of his career. It wasn’t the contestants who tested her, but an exhausting fight with food poisoning.
During his high jump event on Monday, Swapna vomited at least twice on the ground and made quick sprints to the toilet nearly half a dozen times between his attempts.
“I got a good competition after so long, so giving up was not an option. I’ve been eating boiled food for a long time. The food here didn’t suit my body. bad condition. I’ve been on so much medicine for diarrhea and vomiting in the past few days. He was sticking out a lot at the start of my last event (800m),” says Swapna, who almost limped on the ground clutching his stomach before the race.
Swapna, who has six toes on both feet, rose to prominence after winning gold at the 2018 Asian Games with a bandaged jaw due to a gum infection. Life has changed for Swapna and her family who come from a very modest background. “Becoming popular has done me as much harm as good,” she says. Swapna was referring to a raid by forest department officials at Swapna’s home in Jalpaiguri for alleged illegal possession of timber.
Preserve three pairs
The lull after the Asian high taught Swapna some hard life lessons. She made big promises to herself when she retired with the gold around her neck from Jakarta, but few delivered. “Promises? That’s the one word I don’t like to hear,” she said after a big, sarcastic laugh.
Swapna had often complained of foot pain as her sixth toe pushed against generically designed spikes. But sports giants Adidas took her to Germany to design a custom shoe for her with enough breathing room for her toes. “My feet don’t hurt anymore, so that’s a huge relief,” she says. But since she is no longer sponsored by them, she only has three pairs of non-replaceable custom spikes. She thinks it’s a blessing in disguise that she hasn’t competed much in recent years. “The shoes are still in good shape,” she said.
Swapna says it was her coach Subhas Sarkar and officials from the Sports Authority of India who convinced her to give the sport another chance. “They told me that every athlete has to retire one day, but why not retire in style. So I’m back and I want to try my luck at the Asian and Commonwealth Games. It’s an important year for me,” she says.
Chanda cuts the Asian Games
Chanda clocked her personal best 2:02.11s in the 800m to qualify for the Asian Games under AFI qualification guidelines. The Delhi runner’s effort also puts her in the top ten of India’s all-time list. In the men’s discus, Kirpal Singh of Punjab rewrote a 22-year-old competition record with a best attempt of 61.38m. But the throw did not meet AFI qualification standards for the CWG and the Asian Games.