Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday announced a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh and a government job for Swapna Barman, India’s first-ever Asian Games gold medal winner in heptathlon.
Congratulating Barman, Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi said she is a golden example of what can be achieved through strong determination in spite of facing apparently insurmountable difficulties like poverty, want of proper facilities and other odds.
“Not only our women athletes but also entire athletic community will be inspired by the example of her success,” Tripathi said in a statement.
West Bengal Tourism Minister Gautam Deb visited Swapna’s residence in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal on Thursday morning and made her mother speak to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
“I travelled from Kolkata this morning on the instruction of Chief Minister. She wanted to speak to Swapna’s mother. They had a fairly long conversation. We, on behalf of the government will extend whatever support that is needed to help her prosper further,” Deb told IANS.
“I have a few plans in my mind to further help the family as they are in need. I will share them with the chief minister and then take it forward,” Deb added.
The state Athletic Association, meanwhile, is also planning a felicitation ceremony when the 21-year-old returns around September 4.
“We have to do something for sure. Let her come back. She has made the country proud and she is the toast of the nation now. Let’s see what we can do from our side,” West Bengal Athletic Association secretary Kamal Maitra told IANS.
Swapna scripted history in Jakarta on Wednesday when she achieved her personal best score of 6026 points in the seven-event competition to earn India a first heptathlon gold in the Asian Games.
The golden girl defied physical and financial odds to reach the pinnacle. Swapna’s father, Panchanan Barman was a rickshaw puller but has been bedridden for the last few years due to old age problems.
Swapna often had a tough time finding the right competition shoes that would fit her as she was born with six toes in both feet.
The extra width of her feet makes landing painful and shoes wear out quickly.
From former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, an icon from the state to batting great Sachin Tendulkar — wishes poured in from all corners for Swapna.
“Congratulations to Swapna Burman @Swapna_Barman96… for her gold… we in India and Bengal are so happy and proud,” Ganguly wrote on his Twitter handle.
“Brilliance in the track and field events again. Outstanding performances from @Swapna_Barman96 (who blazed ahead with a bandaged jaw & 6 toes on each foot)…” Tendulkar tweeted.
Swapna had finished fifth with a total of 5178 points on debut at the Asian Games four years ago in Incheon as a teenager.
She sparkled at the Asian Athletics championships last year, where she bagged the gold.