Fencing: Bhavani Devi makes history before going down fighting in Tokyo

Bhavani Devi, right, lunges in attack against Tunisia's Nadia Ben Azizi in their table-of-64 women's individual sabre encounter at the Tokyo Olympics. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

Indian fencer Bhavani Devi lost to France's Manon Brunet in the second round of the women's individual sabre event at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday, bringing her maiden Olympic campaign to an end. The Indian, seeded 29th, lost 15-7 to fourth seed Brunet, who was a semifinalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Earlier on Monday, Bhavani, the first Indian fencer to qualify for the Olympics, had defeated Tunisia's Nadia Ben Azizi 15-3.

"I did my level best but couldn't win. I am sorry...Thank you so much i (sic) will come back much stronger and successful at Next Olympics with all your Prayers," she tweeted, thanking her coaches, the government and her family for backing her.

Bhavani said she committed mistakes against Brunet but will take the result in her stride. "I didn't fence well in the first half but in the second half I tried to change something but it was too late. I am happy I fenced with one of the top fencers in the world," Bhavani said.

"In between I was doing some mistakes but it is okay, sabre is very quick. It is the first time Indians will watch fencing, so I am very happy that I could perform in front of them."

The sabre is the fastest of the fencing competitions in which opponents can slash anywhere above the waist. The fencer who touches the 15-point mark first is declared the winner.

In the other two events -- foil and epee -- only the tip of the sword can be used to target the opponent.

The Chennai fencer said she has gained valuable experience from her Tokyo outing, which will help her in future challenges.

"It is my first Olympics and it could be better but I am okay with the experience I had from this Olympics. It will be a learning experience for me to improve myself.

"I did not qualify for Rio, I tried my best to qualify and that helped me to become stronger as a person and to move forward for Tokyo. From here onwards, I will be living my dream as an Olympian." Bhavani said "staying away from family and missing normal life" was the sacrifice she had to make to live her dream.

"I train in Italy. It is worth it and it is my family's dream, too, so I am happy," she said, adding that she had worked on her basic foot work on her building terrace in Chennai during the COVID-19-induced lockdown last year.

In the bout against Bhavani, from 1-1 onwards, France's Brunet began to assert herself in the first period, using her fast hands and light feet in defence and attack to jump to a 5-1 lead. The 27-year-old Bhavani, the first Indian fencer to qualify for the Olympics, made it 5-2 before Brunet went on another run, this time of three straight points, to close out the first period 8-2.

Brunet continued in the same vein in the second period, winning three more points before Bhavani snapped the run of six straight points with four consecutive points of her own, closing the deficit from 11-2 to 11-6.

Brunet kept up the pressure, though, and won four of the next five points to get to the 15-point mark required for victory.

In contrast, Bhavani got off to a confident start in her first Olympic bout as she demolished the challenge of Tunisia's Azizi 15-3 to advance.

Bhavani was aggressive from the beginning and took advantage of Azizi's open stance, which allowed her to score points quickly. Bhavani did not concede a single point in the first three-minute period and raced to a commanding 8-0 lead.

Bhavani extended her lead to 9-0 in the second period before Nadia finally got on the scoreboard for 9-1. The Tunisian managed some touches in the second period but the Indian used her momentum and kept building her lead to win the contest in six minutes and 14 seconds.