Hyderabad: Sheikh Fouzia and Sheikh Naziya are two city teenagers who are working hard toward the sports of fencing, a summer Olympics game, to fulfil their dream of one day representing India at the International level.
Fencing is a combat game, also the first sport to be played in Olympics. Based on the traditional skills of swordsmanship, the modern sport arose at the end of the 19th century. Competitive fencing is one of the five activities which have been featured in every modern Olympic Games, the other four being athletics, cycling, swimming, and gymnastics.
Fouzia and Naziya are daughters of an RTC bus driver who has worked hard to make his daughters achieve their dreams. Natives of Nalagonda, the family of five (the girls have a younger brother who is also an active fencing player), have dedicated their lives to playing world-class fencing.
Nineteen-year-old Fouzia and 17-year-old Naziya have been training for the last eight and six years respectively. After getting selected at the district level, they got admission to the prestigious Telangana state Sports School in Hakkimpet, known for its sports coaching.
When Siasat.com asked about their choice, both the girls admitted that they were attracted to the way in which the game was played. The uniform, the sword shifting, the techniques of the game, studying the opponent; all this really got them interested.
When your whole day goes into sports coaching, one can lose track of studies. But for the girls, nothing has changed. In fact, both of them were toppers in their respective tenth class batch, thus balancing the study-sports pendulum.
Our father is a strong man:
Giving full credit to their father, the girls regard him as their biggest inspiration. “Our father wanted to join the Indian defence forces but due to family pressure, he could not. But he is a strong man. He taught us everything to ensure we get admission to the sports school,” said Fouzia.
She goes on to add, “My father faces much criticism from family and our village. Being girls everybody keeps questioning him why are they in such a sport, why is their hair so short, why can’t put them in regular school and then marry them off, all that. But he does not care about anyone’s opinion and does what he thinks is best for us.”
The traditional game is divided into three parts depending on the speed – Epee, Foil, Sabre.
Epee – The epee is considered the original dueling sword. The whole body is considered a target.
Foil – The foil evolved from the short court sword of the 17th and 18th centuries. The front and back of the torsos are considered targets.
Sabre- In sabre, the target includes heads, arms and a button. It is the fastest out of the three weapons.
While Fouzia is a foil player, Naziya is an epee player and has competed at the international level.
When asked about her experience in playing international, Naziya said, “It was very difficult. I was scared. There were many big players. I have played Asian Championship at Tashkent where my team fetched a silver medal. I have also participated in World Championship in Dubai where I got 76th rank. I realised I had to work really hard if I need to get a seat at the international level.”
The Biggest Sacrifice:
“Family has been our biggest sacrifice to achieve our dreams,” echoed the girls. “Many a time we want to share our wins and loses with our parents but since they live in the village we cant afford to bring them here. We stay in a hostel. We miss them immensely,” the girls said.
While Fouzia wants to get into the Indian Army or the Air force and represent fencing through them the defence force, Nazyia’s only dream is to fetch an Olympic medal. The hope is that their dreams come true and that fencing, which is relatively unknown in the country, soon becomes a beloved sport.