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The humbling story of a resolute Asian Games gold medallist Swapna Barman

August 30, 2018 10:14 IST

Belonging to the Rajbbongshi tribe in North Bengal, Swapna's mother worked as a maid and doubled up as a tea plucker working in tea gardens. Her father Panchanan Barman pulled a van rickshaw until he became bedridden following a stroke seven years ago.

Swapna Barman of India celebrates with Yuki Yamasaki of Japan after the Women's Heptathlon 800m at GBK Main Stadium in Jakarta on Wednesday

IMAGE: Swapna Barman of India celebrates with Yuki Yamasaki of Japan after the Women's Heptathlon 800m at GBK Main Stadium in Jakarta on Wednesday. Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters

Indian heptathlete Swapna Barman's mother will finally get to see her daughter after her historic gold medal winning feat at the Asian Games in Jakarta on Wednesday.

"Medal na jitle bari firbo na (won't return home, unless I win a medal)," Swapna had told her mother Basana Devi when she visited her family at Ghospara village, on the outskirts of Jalapaiguri town in North Bengal.

Belonging to the Rajbbongshi tribe in North Bengal, Swapna's mother worked as a maid and doubled up as a tea plucker working in tea gardens. Her father Panchanan Barman pulled a van rickshaw until he became bedridden following a stroke seven years ago.

Born with six toes on each foot, Swapna is stubborn from childhood, said the secretary of the Jalpaiguri District Athletics Association Ujjal Das Chowdhury, who has followed Swapna's career from close quarters.

"If someone discourages her to do something, then Swapna will stick to it till she proves the person wrong," Das Chowdhury said.

Battling a back injury that requires her to take an injection under Dr Anant Joshi in Mumbai every month, Swapna had last visited her home after her Asian Athletics win in Bhubaneswar last year.

A staunch devotee of Goddess Kali, she spent almost all her prize money in building a Kali temple outside her house, Chowdhury told PTI from Jalpaiguri.

"She had come to build a temple and that was the last time she visited her home. Today her mother was saying she can finally see her daughter with the gold medal now," Das Chowdhury said.

Swapna Barman of India celebrates after winning the Women's Heptathlon on Wednesday 

IMAGE: Swapna Barman of India celebrates after winning the Women's Heptathlon on Wednesday. Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters

Swapna had won the Asian Athletics gold with her previous personal best effort of 5942 points, till she joined the 6000-club on Wednesday en route to a dream Asiad gold.

"Congratulations to her and her coach Subhas Sarkar who meticulously calculated the points for her despite battling a toothache and a back injury," he added.

The moment the news spread after Swapna clinched the gold with a personal best of 6026 points, hundreds flocked to her two-room, tinned-house celebrating her success as her mother offered prayers in the Kali temple.

"I've seen the penury their family has gone through. Swapna has now stopped her father from pulling a van rickshaw. Better things are in store for them," she said.

Meanwhile, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee congratulated Swapna through her official Twitter handle.

"Heartiest congratulations to @Swapna_Barman96 our heptathlon queen from India and Bangla, on winning the gold at the Asian Games. You have made us very proud," she tweeted.

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