I've got 12 toes - I need special shoes

Swapna Barman of India after finishing the 800m on Wednesday and winning the women's heptathlon gold medal - in ill-footing footwear.
Swapna Barman of India after finishing the 800m on Wednesday and winning the women's heptathlon gold medal - in ill-footing footwear.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA • India's Swapna Barman has known pain her whole athletic career after being born with six toes on each foot.

But while her physical anomaly did not stop her from winning the Asian Games heptathlon on Wednesday evening, she is hoping that someone can finally answer her plea for shoes that are of the right fit.

Barman led going into the 800m - the last of the seven heptathlon disciplines and her weakest event - but managed to cling on despite a fourth-placed finish as her closest rival came in last.

The 21-year-old, who still has all dozen of her toes, revealed in her post-race interview that every step had been excruciating as she pushed through the pain barrier in her ill-fitting footwear.

"Normal shoes don't work for me. There is lot of pain when I wear any shoe, spikes or anything," she said. "I hope they (sportswear manufacturers) make special shoes for me... even warm-up shoes hurt."

Despite suffering from polydactyly, she toughed through it in Jakarta, clinching her specialist high jump event as well as the shot put and javelin categories to record a personal best score of 6,026.

Barman, however, insisted she has never considered surgery to deal with the issue, blaming the extra width of her feet for the pain.

Her feet were not her only concern as she raced to victory - Barman also had to contend with an acute toothache, which she blamed on her sweet tooth.

"I used to eat a lot of chocolates so (I) have a lot of pain in one of my teeth before the start of the competition," she said, while wearing heavy strapping on her chin.

Physical woes were not the only thing to plague athletes as Indonesian Hendro finished last in the 50km race walk, which was won by Japan's Hayato Katsuki yesterday.

"This is a miracle for me that I can finish," said the 28-year-old, who was carried from the finish line on a stretcher amid Jakarta's unrelenting pollution, heat and humidity.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2018, with the headline 'I've got 12 toes - I need special shoes'. Print Edition | Subscribe