Prior to the start of the Asian Games 2018, many Indians would have been forgiven for not knowing who Swapna Barman was, or what sport Heptathlon is. But after Wednesday, not only the people of India, but also the world know both about the athlete and the sport!
On August 29, 2018, Swapna scripted history by winning India's first ever Gold medal in Heptathlon at the Asian Games 2018. The 21-year-old posted a total score of 6026, which put helped her claim top place ahead of China's Wang Qingling, whose score was 5954 earned her Silver medal, and Japan's Yuki Yamasaki, whose score of 5873 won her Bronze medal.
It's a rare sight to see someone having six toes on one leg, but it's absolutely improbable to see anyone having six toes on both the legs. But that's what Swapna Barman was born with.
Her father was a rickshaw-puller, who has been confined to bed since 2013, after he suffered a stroke. Her family could not afford special shoes according to the needs of Swapna. Yet, she did not let any of these setbacks pull her down.
The youngster first got her name in the headlines after winning Gold medal with a score of 5942 in the Asian Athletics Championships 2017 held in India. While she was a record holder in most rounds, her struggles were there to be seen in the field track, much due her legs and toes.
She came into the Asian Games 2018 at Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia, with a lot of hopes, knowing her performances in the previous edition in 2014 earned her fifth place. But no one, not even Swapna, would have expected a Gold medal, that too in such a convincing manner.
The 21-year-old won the high jump, shot put, and javelin round, as well as performing well in the other three rounds. After the first six rounds, she was leading. But the final round was a 800m, one where she struggles due to her toes, and lack of specialized shoe.
Despite all the odds stacked against her, Swapna finished fourth in the race. With China's Qingling finishing last, Swapna was confirmed to have won the Gold medal. It was an achievement which would rank right amongst the top in terms of the best performances at the Asian Games 2018.
For those who know nothing about the sport, Heptathlon is a combination of field and track events, which involves seven rounds. The sport was first introduced in front of the world in 1980, before it got inducted into Olympics in 1984. The world record for highest score in Heptathlon is 8425.