A resounding success: Paralympic athlete Bhavina Patel
Photography: Charudutt Chitrak
The winning path
They made the country proud at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. Not content to rest on their laurels, they are already preparing for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. We present to you the para-athletes who have overcome the most difficult challenges to continue to shine.
A smashing success: Bhavina Patel
From being affected by polio at 12 months to becoming the first Indian to win a table tennis medal at the Paralympic Games, paddler Bhavina Patel has come a long way. She tells us about her journey and her main goal in the future
Bhavina Patel was born in the village of Sundhiya in the Mehsana district of Gujarat in 1986. Suffered from polio when she was only 12 months old. Living life in a wheelchair from a young age. Became a para table tennis player in 2004. She won her first national title at the National Para Table Tennis Championships in Bangalore in 2007. She won her first gold medal in singles matches at the International Table Tennis Championship para in Bangkok, Thailand, 2019. Story from scripting at the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2021 by winning a silver medal in Class 4 table tennis. It’s an extraordinary life.
Photography: Charudutt Chitrak
The para table tennis player, who became the first Indian paddler to win a medal at the Paralympic Games, says her sole focus has always been to get out there and give her the best shot. “I wanted to become a Paralympian. I hadn’t imagined that I was going to reach the final or win the silver! I only believed in one thing: if you give your best, you are bound to get a great result. And my silver medal is this result, ”she beams. After qualifying and then being unable to play at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games due to a technical issue, Patel shone in Tokyo. On her way to the final, she beat ours. 2, 3, 8 and 9; the quarter-final with Serbian Borislava Peric-Rankovic lasted just 18 minutes. She was beaten by the world number one. 1 Zhou Ying of China in the final.
“I only believed in one thing: if you give your best, you are bound to get a great result. And my silver medal is this result. – Bhavina Patel
The 34-year-old woman who works for the Employee State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) in Ahmedabad first started table tennis after seeing how her friends loved playing it when she joined the association blind people from Ahmedabad, for a computer course. “After I started playing, my taste for the game turned into a passion that fueled my desire to continue on a journey with him,” she tells us.
After three years of hard work and practice, she competed in the first national championships and won a bronze medal; it was a victory that put her on the path to becoming a Paralympian. The champion sees her silver medal as a bonus for her hard work; his main objective was to prepare for the Paralympic Games in Paris 2024. “For me, all the tournaments lined up in the meantime are of equal importance. My seriousness vis-à-vis the sport and my practice led me to my medal, ”she smiles.
“My parents and later my husband always cheered me up; they never considered me a disabled person. – Bhavina Patel
The athlete who at an early stage in her life was frustrated with depending on family members for almost all daily activities, including preparation for school, meals, travel and study, has mastered her emotions with the support of family members. “My parents and later my husband always cheered me up; they never considered me a disabled person. They have always said, “You can do it”. This assurance is always at the back of my mind.
Going through his fair share of struggles, Patel cites the inability to compete in Rio in 2016 as one of the lowest points of his life. At the time, her father – who ran a small store in their village – took out a loan to meet the expenses, but she couldn’t achieve her dream due to a technical problem. The loan pressure remained. Her next goal was to qualify for the next Paralympic Games – Tokyo – but financial issues put additional mental pressure and made her question her future. But not for long. “I knew I had to move on, keep training and try to solve the problem; I truly believe that no problem in life is permanent, ”she says.
“I truly believe that no problem in life is permanent.” – Bhavina Patel
Over the course of her time in the game, Patel overcame several obstacles, learning a lot from each challenge. Often, she found that the coaches had not been assigned to the players. “At times like this, I tried to understand different aspects of my own game, analyze videos, solve my own mistakes and research the strengths and weaknesses of my opponents. Depending on these factors, I would change my techniques and my approach to improve myself a little each day, ”she recalls.
Photography: Charudutt Chitrak
It also helped her understand the dynamics of winning and losing; after the final in Tokyo, she was satisfied with her performance and admitted that her opponent Zhou Ying had been faster, more experienced and ahead of her in all aspects.
Her sportsmanship has brought her to this day when she is a household name. Sports giant Puma hired her ahead of the Paralympic Games. Her hero Sachin Tendulkar called to congratulate her and she took to the media. “Everything is fine. There was a time when no one knew Bhavina Patel. Today many people do. Playing for the country and receiving that kind of appreciation is important to me,” she said.
“When something goes wrong in your life, don’t give up. Be confident, keep working hard, and be positive. – Bhavina Patel
Currently preparing for upcoming competitions such as the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the World Championships, Patel is focusing on the fish eye that is gold at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. His advice to future athletes ? “Just one thing: When a problem arises in your life, don’t give up. Be confident, keep working hard, and be positive. You will achieve what you always wanted.
Also read: Officially a winner: Paralympic athlete Suhas Lalinakere Yathiraj