On a historic day for Indian Table Tennis, paddler Bhavina Patel became the first Indian para Table Tennis player to book a spot in the semi final of the Paralympics and assured a medal for the country.
In the quarter final match, Bhavina Patel defeated World No 2 and defending Olympic champion Borislava Peric in the round of 16 by 11-5, 11-6, 11-7 in just 18 minutes. With that Bhavina became the first Indian para Table Tennis player to enter the semi final of the greatest stage of para sports. Simultaneously, she assured herself of a medal at the Paralympics as there are no bronze medal playoffs in this edition. The International Paralympic Committee Governing Board had decided to remove the third-place play-off in all the medal events and award bronze to both the losing semi-finalists.
Earlier in the day, Bhavina Patel won against Brazilian Joyce de Oliveira in 3 straight games- 12-10 13-11, and 11-6. After the match, the paddler said, “My strategy was to play more towards the body of my opponent and that was what my coach told me. I executed my plans“.
Born on 6th November 1986, the 34-year-old Indian is competing in the Women’s Individual Class 4 event at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. Athletes competing in the Class 4 category, not only have fair sitting balance, but they also have completely functional arms and hands. Their impairment can be caused by a lower spinal-cord lesion or even cerebral palsy.
At 5”4’ and weighing 55 kg, Bhavina Hasmukhbhai Patel cuts a stoic figure. In 2004, she shifted to Ahmedabad from Sundhiya (her native village) in the Mahesana district of Gujarat. Her name might be becoming popular now, but Bhavina is a seasoned customer. She has already represented India in a total of 28 international tournaments, which include the World Championships, the Thailand and Japan Open. She has 5 gold medals, 13 silver medals, and 8 bronze medals in her kitty and presently holds the World No. 8 rank.
Bhavina Patel had achieved a World No. 2 ranking, after she won the silver medal at the PTT Thailand Table Tennis Championship back in 2011. Then in October 2013, she bagged another silver medal in the Women’s Singles Class 4 category, at the Asian Para Table Tennis Championships in Beijing. She also picked up a bronze medal at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Asian Para Table Tennis Championship in Beijing back in 2017. Owing to her various achievements, Bhavina was given the Sardar Patel and Eklavya Award.
However, all of this appreciation has not been a long time coming for Bhavina. She also had to endure a severe financial crisis as yet another hurdle in her long and arduous journey. But she never lost hope. She believes that the mind triumphs over everything – “You need to train your mind to be victorious. Then everything falls into place. Whether you are disabled or not, I would give the same advice: Never ever underestimate yourself. Each one has a unique talent, which can be brought out and honed.”
Fortunately for her, the BPA or the Blind People’s Association (BPA), an Ahmedabad-based organisation, came to her aid and extended their support. She has also recently secured a job with the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation, or the ESIC, in the sports quota.