This 12-toed Indian athlete knows where the shoe pinches

Tue Sep 9, 2014 6:51am EDT
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By Amlan Chakraborty

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Pursuing a largely unrewarding Olympic sport in a cricket-obsessed country requires adjustments but Indian heptathlete Swapna Barman has taken it to a new level - squeezing six toes in each shoe designed for five.

Born with six toes in each foot, the 18-year-old from a poor family in Jalpaiguri in the east Indian state of West Bengal has been forced to run, jump and throw wearing shoes that have affected more than aiding her performance.

"Even after all these years, it still hurts every time I put my shoes on," Barman told Reuters in an interview. "It's worse during the running events. I try to adjust but my toes curl under pressure."

Her lamentation sounds almost an anachronism in an era when athletes are trying to get the best out of modern sports science and would not compromise on the sports equipments they use.

She paused when asked if she tried customized shoes.

"I did try a pair from a local manufacturer. It did not last two days."

Coach Subhash Sarkar, who discovered her and remains her greatest motivation, explains what a reticent Barman would not.

"She is not a star athlete for whom Adidas or Nike will design special shoes with precise pressure points, perfect grip and other specifications," Sarkar said. "They'll do that for a star who will tweet a picture and sales would immediately soar.   Continued...

Heptathlete Swapna Barman prepares to wear her track shoes before a practice session at Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata August 29, 2014. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri