At 21, the first Indian to win a heptathlon gold at the Asian Games. It’s considered to be one of the most difficult track and field events, and an excruciating toothache made competing even more difficult for her. She appeared in the stadium with a heavily taped jaw and chin to reduce the pain.

Adversity has been part of her existence practically since she started walking. She was born with six toes on each foot. Her homemaker mother and rickshaw-puller father in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district barely managed to earn enough for two meals a day for the family. They didn’t have the means to fund their girl’s athletics career.

For years, she squeezed her six toes into a shoe meant for five. Heptathlon stretches athletes to the limits of their endurance and stamina. It needs strong running and fine throwing and jumping techniques to score as many points as possible over a multi-day competition.

For Barman, every landing in the jumping event brought more pain, and the sprints were worse. But she didn’t give up. Her stellar show at the Asian Games has made her popular, and she is hoping sponsors will now come forward to help her get better, custom-made shoes.

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