Meet Bhavina Patel, The First Indian Para-Paddler To Win Silver At The Tokyo Paralympics

It was a memorable moment in Tokyo this year when Indian table tennis player Bhavina Patel won a historic silver medal in her maiden Paralympic Games in her final match against Chinese paddler Ying Zhou in the women’s singles class 4 final. This was India’s first medal in table tennis at the Paralympic Games.

Ranked 12th in the world rankings, Bhavina competing in her maiden Paralympic Games had a fabulous campaign in Tokyo, as she beat three players raked higher than her on her way to the silver medal.

Bhavina, who hails from Vadnagar in Gujarat was 12 months old when she was diagnosed with polio. As a result, she suffered Paralysis in both her legs, and despite multiple treatments and surgery, she could not regain control of her legs.

While her family was worried about her future, Bhavina decided to take matters into her own hands and wrote her own destiny. According to reports, initially, Bhavina wanted to become a teacher. But at that point, her father admitted her to an ITI computer course at the Blind People’s Association institute in Ahmedabad, and that was the turning point. It is there that she discovered table tennis and fell in love with it.

During her course, Bhavina was introduced to coach Lalan Doshi and she soon transformed into a table tennis player, starting a historic and memorable journey that led her on the path to the silver medal at the Tokyo Paralympics and earned a place in Indian sports history. Lalan Doshi motivated her to start doing physical activities for fitness and Bhavina gradually edged towards table tennis. She started to play table tennis professionally after three years.

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Bhavina Patel (C) Ramila Chauhan (L) and Patel Sonalben Manubhai (R) pose with team official Tejalben Lakhia (Standing R) and coach – Lalan Doshi (Standing L) and The Indian National Flag at The Blind People’s Association (BPA) in Ahmedabad on June 14, 2011. Image: Firstpost

In her journey to being a professional Table Tennis player for the country, financial difficulties have been Bhavina’s biggest hurdle. In an interview with Firstpost, Bhavina had said that she had already spent a lot of money, as she didn’t get any support from the government initially, nor did she have any sponsors. She added that her father had to take a loan in order for her to get the resources needed to practice to qualify for the 2020 Paralympics. Bhavina had taken the help of a table tennis robot to practice during the lockdown enforced due to Covid-19. She practiced with the robot at home during the entire duration of the lockdown.

Bhavina Patel has won several gold and silver medals in national and international competitions, playing across the world. She was ranked World Number 2 when she won the Silver medal for India in The Individual Category at the PTT Thailand Table Tennis Championship held in 2011.

She had won her first-ever gold medal at the Para Table Tennis Nationals in Bangalore. In 2013, Bhavina yet again bagged silver in the women’s singles Class 4 at the Asian Para table tennis championships in Beijing. The paddler also won bronze at the International Table Tennis Federation Asian Para Table Tennis Championship, which was held in Beijing in 2017. She finally won her first singles gold medal in Bangkok in 2019 and followed it up with a gold medal at the doubles event as well.

Bhavina was selected for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games but could not play due to some technical issue on the sports federation’s end. When she qualified for the Tokyo Paralympics 2020, she became the first Indian woman to achieve the feat in singles table tennis. On her way to winning India’s first Paralympic medal in table tennis, Bhavina Patel also became the first Indian to enter the final of a table tennis event at the Paralympic Games. Bhavina’s coach Lalan Doshi says that it is her never-say-die spirit throughout the challenges that she faced, which made her a champion. 

Talking about the state of Para sports in the country Bhavina says that the awareness is increasing about Paralympics Games. “A lot of players are coming to the front who will take inspiration by watching us and be a part of big tournaments like these and perform,” Bhavina says.

Featured Image Source: Firstpost

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