Bhavina Patel's determination is 'contagious', says paddler's husband Nikul Patel after Paralympics success
The Bridge spoke to Bhavina Patel and her husband Nikul Patel about the magical chemistry they share and their experiences at the Tokyo Paralympics.
India's first medal winner at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, Bhavina Patel, made a historic run by winning India's first-ever Paralympic or Olympic medal - a silver in table tennis. Bhavina's feat is something to cherish, as she, on her way to finals, beat World no. 2 and World no. 3 players.
Throughout her journey, her husband Nikul Patel stood by her side like a solid pillar of support. It was quite a fascinating sight to see Nikul cheering from the back.
Nikul, a former cricketer, was among the 25 probables for Team India for the under-19 World Cup in 2002, but he eventually quit the sport and although he had very little knowledge about table tennis, he invested time and efforts to learn about the little nuances of table tennis just to support Bhavina, with whom he tied knots in 2017.
"When we were heading to Tokyo, we never thought Bhavina would win a medal. But I was pretty confident that Bhavina would be creating history for India. Though there were a few obstacles but it could not deter the motivation Bhavina had. Bhavina actually took her time to adjust to the conditions in Tokyo. Right after playing her first match, Bhavina was suffering from a 103-degree fever. We had to rush her to take the COVID test. We were waiting till 1 in the morning for her reports, which came negative. She played with fever. Besides, the table on which the action was unfolding in Tokyo, was quiet faster than the table that she has been practising in India. But she was still confident. During the final also, she was on the verge of pulling off a comeback," says Nikul in an exclusive conversation with The Bridge.
Nikul has seen Bhavina pretty closely, how she managed to win transform her game and level up every time when needed. He says, "Bhavina knows pretty well, how to go about in her matches, she trains vigorously and prepares herself according to her competitors. We frequently discuss the positives and negatives of the game and always work on the shortcomings."
He adds that there is a lot to learn Bhavina and take inspiration from. "Bhavina's indomitable spirit inspires me a lot. When she was just a teenager, she decided to do something big in her life and had come to train in Ahmedabad. She just wanted to make sure that her life did not get stuck because of her disability. She wanted to prove herself and her determination is simply contagious." adds Nikul.
Speaking to Bhavina, on her overall experience, she said, "The Paralympics experience has been by far the best for me. It was nothing like the other tournaments I have played so far. Beating the best players of the world was certainly happy, but in the final, I just learned a lot against the formidable World no. 1 opponent. I will take back my learnings and try to improve my game from here."
The paddler who once spent a solitary journey without recognition of being a para-athlete is certainly satisfied with the response of Indians this time after medal win, "This time, I can see the changes among people and their views on para sports. The government has supported us, immensely, alongside the media, which in turn has made people more aware of us. This is a good sign and certainly a big encouragement for us," says Bhavina.
The pair who has already arrived in New Delhi is busy with the felicitations and ceremonies being organised for the para athletes, which is why they are holding on to their celebrations.
"We haven't been able to celebrate the moment; we have not reached our home in Ahmedabad," said Nikul. Bhavina added, "I want to celebrate with my family and want to try home food with them. Also, I have this wish to go back home and I wish to eat gol gappas. Haven't had it in the last one-and-a-half years."
When asked Nikul, whether he has ever tried playing against Bhavina, he quips, "Well, I have played quite a few times with her and lost most of them. Sometimes, Bhavina gives out points to me even as consolation."
Bhavina believes she still has a lot to give to Indian sports as she will be preparing herself for the eventful year in 2022, with the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games lined up. However, her eyes will be set at the Paris Paralympics in 2024, where she will aim for a gold medal.