Swapna urges Bengal government for accommodation in Kolkata

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Kolkata : Swapna Barman, who recently became India's first-ever heptathlete to win a gold medal at the Asian Games, on Friday hoped the West Bengal government would help her get a house in the city as she does not have a permanent address here.

Hailing from Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal, Swapna has been training at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Eastern Training Centre since 2012.

"My only wish is to have a permanent residence near the SAI complex (in Salt Lake). I stay at the SAI complex now but if my performance is not there, I won't have a place to stay. So it would be hugely beneficial if the government could help me get a house," Swapna told reporters on the sidelines of her felicitation ceremony at the SAI complex.

West Bengal Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had announced a cash award of Rs 10 lakh and a government job for the 21-year-old who achieved her personal best score of 6026 points in the seven-event competition to earn India a first heptathlon gold in the Asian Games.

From boxer Vijender Singh to India's chief athletics coach Bahadur Singh, the clamour to increase Swapna's cash award has been on the rise. Asked about her opinion, Swapna did not want to comment.

Speaking about the Games, in which she competed despite having a tooth and gum infection, Swapna's long time coach Subhash Sarkar relived how she endured all that and a recurring back pain which threatened to derail her Asian Games campaign.

"She suffered a lot in the buildup to the Games. Since her debut at the Incheon Asian Games, she had had problems with her back and it troubled her right through 2015, 2016. There was a point in 2016 where she wanted to leave everything and go back home. I persuaded her to continue training as I saw a potential in her to win a medal," Sarkar said during her speech.

"There was a time in 2015 when she went home for three months due to incessant back problem. I persuaded her to come back."

Swapna had finished 26th in the women's heptathlon at the World Championships but mulled pulling out of the competition owing to a recurring back pain. Before the Games, her biggest high was the heptathlon gold in the Asian Championships last year.

"My turning point was when sir (Subhash Sarkar) used to call me several times and urge me not to go back to Jalpaiguri. I had almost given up after this recurring back pain," Swapna revealed.

Talking about the road ahead, Swapna said her next target is 6,300 points, which would be an improvement on her personal best score of 6026 points at the Asian Games.

"My next target is to score 6,300 points. Every athlete wants an Olympic medal and I am no different. But at the moment, I want to improve my score and for that I need to stay more disciplined."

The heptathlon, which is a seven-event contest and covers a range of track and field events and is spread over two days, comprises 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200m on the first day, while day two has long jump, javelin and 800m.

Swapna added it was while running the 800m that she realised that she had clinched gold.

Signing off, Swapna said she would focus on recovering from her injury first and then resume training.

Besides Swapna, gymnasts Pranati Das and Pranati Nayak, rower Sanjukta Dung Dung and Indian handball goalkeeper Nina Shil were also felicitated for taking part in the Asian Games from SAI Eastern region.

Earlier, Swapna was accorded a warm welcome at the Kolkata airport as hundreds of supporters were seen chanting her name while there were banners hailing her as the 'Golden Girl' accompanied by the beating of dhaak.