Bhavina Patel, India's hero Paralympic silver medalist

Meet Bhavina Patel, India's hero Paralympic silver medalist

A delighted Bhavina dedicated her silver medal to the country, vying for a gold next time

Bhavina’s initial interest in the game, followed by growing passion and her thirst to be the best paved way for her table tennis obsession. Credit: PTI Photo

Bhavinaben Patel scripted history on Sunday by becoming only the second Indian woman to win a medal at the Paralympics after clinching the silver in women's singles table tennis class 4 final.

Bhavina lost 0-3 to world number one Chinese paddler Ying Zhou.

A delighted Bhavina dedicated her silver medal to the country, vying for a gold next time. “I was slightly nervous during the match today. I couldn't implement my game strategy well. Next time, I will surely give my best,” she said.

Bhavina’s initial interest in the game, followed by growing passion and her thirst to be the best paved way for her table tennis obsession.

Diagnosed with polio when she was 12 months old, the 34-year-old had already made India proud, having become the first Indian to enter the final of a table tennis event in the showpiece.

Read | Paddler Bhavinaben Patel wins historic silver at Tokyo Paralympics

"I first played the sport for fun but a bronze medal at a national level club event in Delhi led me into thinking that I can do well in top national and international tournaments. I became passionate about it and soon I found myself obsessed with the sport," Patel told PTI from Tokyo, where she is taking some giant strides.

"The obsession with table tennis reached a point where eating, food and sleep took a backseat in my life," she added.

She considers a move to Ahmedabad to learn computer science as her life's turning point as her mannerisms, her way of speaking and her purpose in life -- everything changed for the good.

"Before that, I never knew that a game like TT existed since I was living in a small village. But things changed so much after coming to Ahmedabad. The manner in which I am speaking now is because of my staying in Ahmedabad. The dialect was different in my village."

Patel started playing the sport 15 years ago at the Blind People's Association at Vastrapur area of Ahmedabad where she was a student of ITI (Indian Training Institute) for people with disabilities.

 

There, she saw visually impaired children playing table tennis and decided to take up the sport.

She won her first medal in a competition while representing the Rotary Club in Ahmedabad where she is settled now after her marriage to Nikul Patel, who has played junior cricket for Gujarat.

Speaking about the robot which she owns thanks to the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), she said, "I got the robot from TOPS in 2020. It helped me improve my game.. It's a very advanced robot with advanced features. It throws the ball at you like a simulation... otherwise Lallan sir was there most of the time to train me."

The machine costs Rs 4 lakh.

Daughter of Hasmukhbhai Patel, a small-time shopkeeper at Sundhiya village in Gujarat's Mehsana district, she was not considered a bright medal prospect coming into the Games.

She will take on world number one Chinese paddler Ying Zhou in the summit clash on Sunday and if her form is any indication, the Indian can certainly claim the top prize.

In the quarterfinal on Friday, Patel defeated 2016 Rio Paralympics gold winner and world number two Borislava Peric Rankovic of Serbia.

Athletes in Class 4 category have fair sitting balance and fully functional arms and hands. Their impairment may be due to a lower spinal-cord lesion or cerebral palsy.

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