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Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

Tokyo Paralympics: Born to a family who runs a cutlery shop, Bhavina Patel becomes first Indian paddler to confirm medal

Despite hailing from humble backgrounds, Gujarat's Bhavina Patel stormed into the semi-finals of the Tokyo Paralympics and created history by confirming a medal!

Bhavinaben Patel at the Tokyo Paralympics

Bhavinaben Patel confirms the first medal for India at the Tokyo Paralympics (Source: ITTF/Cheng Howe Seet)


Sohinee Basu

Updated: 27 Aug 2021 3:04 PM GMT

Veteran table tennis star Bhavina Patel has done the unthinkable as she is making the most memorable debut at the Tokyo Paralympics. After having lost her group opener against the top-seeded Chinese Zhou Ying, the Gujarati sensation was practically unstoppable as she confirmed the very first medal for India at the Tokyo Paralympics by storming into the semi-finals. Defeating the reigning Paralympic champion and World No. 2, Serbia's Peric Borislava in straight games, 3-0, Bhavina displayed pure class in her encounter.

The World No. 12 paddler had missed out on representing the country at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, even after making the cut for it, due to some paperwork issues with the Federation, is making up for that loss in style as she will now return gloriously with a medal around her neck.

A former World No. 2, Bhavina, who competed in the Women's Wheelchair Class 4 Singles, is no stranger to success with as many as 26 medals - 5 gold, 13 silver, 8 bronze collected so far but this Paralympic medal will sit at the top-most perch as her 27th accolade internationally.

Family support guided Bhavina to her success

Bhavina Patel

For Bhavina Patel, who was diagnosed with polio when she was just a year old, life has been difficult. However, Patel has an extremely supportive family who stuck with her through thick and thin. Her parents ran a cutlery kiosk in Gujarat and weren't very well-off financially but that did not deter them in showering their support for their daughter.

Although Bhavina's initial plan was to become a teacher, that dream was interrupted because she got rejected in an interview because of her physical impairment. It was at this juncture that her family stepped in, led by her father Hasmukhbhai Patel who saw an advertisement for the Blind People's Association (BPA). Soon, he admitted Bhavina at the award-winning institute in an ITI course and within a quick span, Bhavina's life transformed as she discovered table tennis and fell in love with it.

Bhavina's talent with the racquet was spotted by her coach Lalan Doshi at the BPA under whom she currently trains and with her family and her husband acting as her rock - supporting her though and through, it seemed like Bhavina's tryst with table tennis was a match made in the stars and the Paralympic medal right now is firm proof of that.

The journey of the 2018 Asian Para Games medallist has been brilliant with Bhavina scaling new heights with every tournament. Aside from the family support, all of this growth has been facilitated by Bhavina being included in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) and timely interventions by the Government of India to help her participate in a large number of tournaments.

Due to this, Bhavina has been receiving financial support and has availed of TT tables, Robot and TT Wheelchair for personal training, dietician, sports psychologist and coaching fees to get her in shape for the Tokyo Paralympics.

Using these facilities and banking on her talent alone, Bhavinaben Patel has become the first Indian in Tokyo Paralympics to reach the semi-final stage and the first-ever paddler from India in para table tennis to win a medal at the Paralympics and set a brand new benchmark for Indian table tennis.

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