Meet Bhavina Patel, the first Indian para-paddler to win silver at the Tokyo Paralympic Games


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

Ranked 12th in the world ranking, Bhavina, who competed in her first Paralympic Games, had a fabulous campaign in Tokyo, as she beat three better-paid players on her way to the silver medal.

Bhavina, from Vadnagar in Gujarat, was 12 months old when she was diagnosed with polio. As a result, she suffered paralysis of both legs and, despite several treatments and surgeries, she was unable to regain control of her legs.

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

During her studies, Bhavina was introduced to coach Lalan Doshi and she quickly transformed into a table tennis player, starting a historic and memorable journey that led her on her way to the silver medal. at the Tokyo Paralympic Games and earned a place in Indian sporting history. Lalan Doshi motivated her to start doing physical activities for fitness, and Bhavina gradually turned to table tennis. She started playing table tennis professionally after three years.

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Bhavina Patel (C) Ramila Chauhan (L) and Patel Sonalben Manubhai (R) pose with team manager Tejalben Lakhia (Standing R) and coach – Lalan Doshi (Standing L) and the Indian national flag at the Association of the Blind (BPA) in Ahmedabad on June 14, 2011. Image: Firstpost

On her journey to become a professional table tennis player for the country, financial difficulties were Bhavina’s biggest obstacle. In a maintenance with Firstpost, Bhavina had said that she had already spent a lot of money, as she had initially received no government support and had no sponsors. She added that her father had to take out a loan in order for her to get the resources to train and qualify for the 2020 Paralympic Games. Bhavina had taken the help of a table tennis robot to help herself. lead during the lockdown imposed due to Covid-19. She trained with the robot at home for the duration of the confinement.

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 very first gold medal at the national para table tennis championships in Bangalore. In 2013, Bhavina once again captured silver in women’s class 4 singles at the Asian Para Table Tennis Championships in Beijing. The paddler also won bronze at the International Table Tennis Federation Asian Table Tennis Championships, held in Beijing in 2017. She eventually won her first singles gold medal in Bangkok in 2019 and followed her with a gold in doubles as well.

Bhavina was selected for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, but couldn’t play due to a technical problem on the side of the sports federation. When she qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, 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 compete in the final of a table tennis event at the Paralympic Games. Bhavina’s coach Lalan Doshi says it was her never say-die spirit throughout the challenges she faced that made her a champion.

Speaking about the state of Paralympic sports in the country, Bhavina says awareness of the Paralympic Games is increasing. “A lot of players are coming to the fore who will take inspiration from us and take part in big tournaments like these and perform“, Bhavina said.

Featured Image Source: Firstpost

About the authors)

Shriya is a former literature student interested in human rights. She can be found watching films about the world war or listening to Ali Sethi and Noori. She enjoys a good cup of black coffee several times a day and is often compared to “Casper, the nice ghost”.

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