Chennai-based foil fencer Maria Akshita has won the International Fencing Federation (FIE)'s annual Fair Play award for her act of kindness on the piste. Competing at the FIE Fencing World Championships in Milan in July 2023, Maria reportedly lent her electric jacket to an unknown competitor who was in need of one. (Fencing News)
The world body took note of Maria's generosity and decided to honour her along with Australia's Lachlan Crook and Egypt's Mostafa Tahoun at the award ceremony in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The 23-year-old, who represents NCOE Guwahati (Sports Authority of India, regional centre in Assam), is the first Indian fencer to receive this laurel.
The sequence of events that led to her lending the equipment is as follows, according to an Indian Express report. Maria was gearing up for her bout against the former world junior champion Lauren Scruggs from the USA, when she saw some anxious commotion on the adjacent piste. She was soon approached, and Maria did not think twice before removing her electric jacket and offering it to someone she did not know. Maria’s own match got delayed and she eventually lost it.
“Actually, we were in different pools, and she requested everyone from her pool to help her with the electric jacket, but nobody did. She was surprised and thanked me but I never caught her name or country,” the report quoted Maria as saying after winning the award.
“She was standing in the middle of the piste when the officials came to me. I usually help everyone because at 14, I remember my equipment broke and I asked everyone around, but noone helped me. I remember being so scared at that time. That was the day I decided, I’d help if anyone faced this,” the report further quoted Maria.