Asian Games: Swapna Barman’s 'transgender' comment on teammate leaves sour note

Nandini Agasara, the bronze medallist heptathlete in Barman's line of fire, asked the former golden girl for proof and threatened to move the AFI

Swapna Barman (left) & Nandini Agasara, bronze medallist in heptathlon (photo: social media)
Swapna Barman (left) & Nandini Agasara, bronze medallist in heptathlon (photo: social media)

NH Sports Bureau

While Indian athletes have been making headlines at the ongoing Asian Games for all the right reasons, there was a discordant note in the camp on Monday, 2 October. Swapna Barman — a gold medallist in the 2018 heptathlon — made a shocking allegation that she had lost her (bronze) medal to a ‘transgender woman’, and later deleted the post. 

A day after the loss on Sunday, Barman took social media by storm, alleging that she had lost the medal to a transgender athlete. ‘’I have lost my Asian Games bronze medal to a transgender woman at the 19th Asian Games held in Hangzhou, China. I want my medal back as it is against the rules of our athletics. Help me and support me please. #protestforfairplay,’’ she had posted.  

Even though Barman did not name anyone, it was obvious that her insinuation was against compatriot Nandini Agasara, as the latter had a podium finish with bronze in the demanding event.

Speaking to India Today, Nandini countered: ‘’I know what I am. Ask her to show proof. I will also show that I have won the medal for India. I only want to do well for the country. Now we have won, so people have started talking about it. I will take up this issue with AFI (Athletics Federation of India) for sure. I wanted to enjoy the moment of winning the medal, but I'm going back to India as my mother is not well,’’ said Nandini.

The 20-year-old from Telangana, for whom this was her first seniors event, finished above Barman by a four-point margin at 5712. ‘’This is my first international competition in the senior category and I got a medal, last time I participated in the junior category... I never thought that I would be getting a medal in such a big competition,’’ Nandini said after her win.  

The 27-year-old Barman, who was on the verge of retiring from the sport owing to a spinal injury, relocated from her home state of Bengal to Gujarat, which she now represents at national meets. She decided to give Hangzhou a last try to defend her crown, but narrowly missed out on back-to-back medals. 

At a time when the sporting community is trying to chart a roadmap for transgender athletes and the parameters of such classification is a subject of protracted debate, Burman’s comments about a junior teammate and later deleting it seems an ill-advised move.

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