21-year-old Swapna Barman has made each one of us proud by being the first Indian to win gold in the Heptathlon category at the 2018 Asian Games. What’s unique about this athlete is that she has 12 toes. Yes, you read that right.
During the Games, this athlete struggled with a lack of customised shoes for her 12 toes. She trudged along despite the pain that she was going through. Born to a rickshaw puller and a tea-estate worker who hails from the humble town of Jalpaiguri in West Bengal, Swapna had a difficult childhood.
Read all about her growing up years and her victory here.
After hearing of the pain that she had to endure before and during the race, a government-run enterprise in Chennai has come forward to help Swapna get customised shoes.
Speaking to The Times of India, Sudhanshu Mani, General Manager, Integral Coach Factory, a railway coach manufacturer that also funds training for athletes, said, “We are in touch with Nike. We are waiting for her to come back so that we can get her size and get the customised shoes made for her.”
While surgery to correct this is available, it was never an option for Swapna, given her economic and financial background. Her mother, Basana Devi, too has toes on one of her feet. Since the mother managed with it, they assumed that Swapna would too. There would be pain and discomfort each time she had to squeeze her feet into a regular pair of shoes.
Post her win, the West Bengal government promised a reward of one million rupees ($14,110) and a government job for Swapna.
All through her training, she struggled to get shoes that fit well. Not just competitions, even while training she would be in unbearable pain. While the government and corporates are now coming forward to help this athlete, it would have been so much nicer if she had received this help during her training days.
Here’s wishing that things change for aspiring athletes and that they get the help and support they need to achieve such greatness.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
Cover Photo: Koch David Yor