Indian table tennis player Bhavinaben Patel on Sunday, August 29, ended her run with a silver medal in the ongoing Tokyo Paralympic Games 2020. The 34-year-old competed with world number one Chinese para-athlete Ying Zhou for the gold medal and settled for a silver one after going down 0-3. Although Bhavina had to face defeat in the finals, she scripted history by reaching the finals of the tournament. However, Bhavina's journey to what she has achieved today has not been a smooth ride at all. In fact, it has been challenging as well as heart-winning at the same time.
Born on November 6, 1986, in a small village of Vadnagar in the Mehsana district of Gujarat, Bhavina was diagnosed with polio when she was only a year old. At that time, Bhavina's father did not have enough money to get her daughter treated. However, when she reached the fourth grade, her father got her surgery done in Visakhapatnam, but there was no result. Due to less attention in the following years, her condition remained the same. Since then, Bhavina started using crutches which have remained detachable ever since, NDTV India reported.
Dodging Ahmedabad Traffic
After completing her high school education in Sundhiya, Bhavina shifted to Ahmedabad to pursue an ITI computer science course. There she started developing an interest in table tennis, but to pursue her newly found talent was not as easy as it looked. To just reach the venue, she was required to change two buses, get into a couple of shared auto-rickshaws and make through her way in dodging Ahmedabad's notorious traffic, all with her crutches. Sometimes, her reliable friend then and a supportive husband now, would accompany her for the venue, but mostly she had to make it all by herself, The Indian Express reported.
Revisiting those days, 36-year-old Nikul Patel said that his wife's zeal and vigour, and drive to overcome obstacles, made her the first to achieve this feat of winning the table tennis Paralympics silver medal.
Bhavina lost to Chinese stalwart Zhou Ying 7-11, 7-11, 6-11. This was India's maiden medal at the Tokyo Games so far.
Started Playing Tennis As Hobby
Bhavina started playing table tennis as a hobby and keeping herself fit, but soon started taking it seriously. In 2014, her father took her to an organisation set up for visually impaired people in Ahmedabad, from where Bhavina's table tennis career started. Here this organisation started helping her financially too.
Nikul said that her wife wanted to do it all since she was very young. She always wanted to be independent and had academic goals as well. "She is a Central government employee working with the Employees' State Insurance Corporation and is very rigorous in whatever she does and same was with table tennis. Anyone familiar with Ahmedabad will say how hard it must have been for her to practice table tennis. She would go to Naroda Patiya from her home in Bapunagar, then to Juna Vadaj, Ghatlodia and then finally to the Vastrapur Blind Association," he told.
Bhavina has moved from shared autos to aircraft but travel remains substantial and burdensome. "We have travelled to about 25-30 countries together. She travels on her own most of the times. Europe is very convenient for specially-abled people but it's not the same everywhere," says Nikul.
Road To Success
After three years of playing professional table tennis, Bhavina started making her mark by winning her first gold medal in Para Table Tennis in Bangalore. After winning the 2011 PTT Thailand Table Tennis Championships, her world ranking reached number two. In October 2013, at the Beijing Asian Para Table Tennis Championships, she won the silver medal in the women's singles class 4 event. Bhavina has been successful in winning medals everywhere by performing her best one after the other. While winning the bronze medal in the Asian Para Games in 2018, she successfully bagged her first international singles gold medal in Bangkok in 2019. Forgetting her hard work and weakness since the year 2011, Bhavina managed to appear in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, and the rest is history.