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Phoolan Devi

Phoolan Devi

At the LACC multisport venue, there were a lot of tired people and faces on the last evening of final competitions — especially around the medals stand. Earlier in the day, there’d been raucous crowds, loudly cheering as the athletes stepped up to the podium for their big moment. By 7 p.m., the volunteers seemed a bit weary as they neared the end of this extremely long day, the last long day of many.  Coaches were also subdued in the wake of the pressure and strain of their final matches. And the pumped-up members of the public were mostly gone.

Yet for the athletes who’d won — this was their moment. They were joyous and energized, despite growing fatigue, even as they waited to be called to the podium.

Team Cote d’Ivoire posed together for many glorious victory photos. Team UAE (United Arab Emirates) jumped in a circle, shouting and singing. Members of Team Hong Kong were gushing about how good their victory felt — especially because their opponents “were so very
good.’

Over in the bleachers, Team Bharat’s powerlifters were taking a break — but one athlete had an expectant, excited look. It was Phoolan Devi. She was waiting to receive her gold medal in powerlifting. When asked about her victory, Phoolan smiled a glowing smile. “She lives in an orphanage and these are her first World Games,” said her coach. As the hour grew late, looking at Phoolan’s face, it was clear: this was a moment she’d treasure for a long time. Maybe forever. Definitely a medal moment worth waiting for.

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