Proving the critics wrong may not be a pivotal idea for any athlete competing at the top level, but for Swapna Burman it worked as the source of fire within that burnt all her inhibitions and obstacles en route to success.
"I was always dismissed by officials and critics who ridiculed me by saying she is too short and fat for Heptathlon. She can't go beyond 5,600-5,700 points. Now this gold medal winning performance with over 6,000 points in Asian Games is a tight slap on their face," Swapna told Republic TV in an exclusive interview after her return to India.
Swapna, hailing from a very humble family, broke down while narrating her ordeal. "We had to suffer so much. No food. No water. No Electricity. Hopefully now things will change. My parents had to suffer so much to support me but they never gave up hope," Swapna recalled.
Reliving the moment of glory, Swapna said she was carrying an injury from the Asian Championship. "I was not fully fit. My knee was still hurting. It was a huge challenge for me. One after another event. 7 different events in Heptathlon over 3 days was very very tough. But I had to prove myself. The more it was hurting the more I gained strength. Rest is now history."
Swapna now sets her sight on the next year's world championship. "I now plan to get over 6,200 points in the world championship that can give me a medal. But the ultimate aim is an Olympic medal which is a realistic possibility. That no longer is a distant dream."
Her father is 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 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.