Picture by Paralympic Committee of India

Who is Bhavina Patel: Five things to know about the Tokyo Paralympics sensation

Patel became the first Indian table tennis player to secure a medal at Paralympics.
By Samrat Chakraborty

Table Tennis player Bhavina Patel has achieved multiple firsts at the ongoing Tokyo Paralympics.

The 34-year-old stunned World No. 5 Borislava Peric Rankovic of Serbia in the women's singles Class 4 event quarter-finals to become the first Indian table tennis player to secure a medal at the Paralympics.

The Class 4 paddler would then go on to beat World No. 3 Zhang Miao of China to become the first Indian table tennis player to reach the final at the Paralympics.

The Mehsana-born player will next take on Ying Zhou of China in the final on Sunday. But before the historic event let us learn a bit more about her journey:

Bhavina Patel in action at Tokyo Paralympics
Picture by Paralympic Committee of India

The unfortunate incident that changed her life

Bhavina met with an unfortunate incident while she was learning to walk at the age of one. She fell down awkwardly and the incident impaired her mobility below the waist.

Taking up table tennis

It, however, did not stop her from fulfilling her ambition and potential. At the age of 12, she moved to Blind People's Association in Vastrapur, Ahmedabad to learn computers. It was here that she would come across impaired children playing table tennis and spontaneously decided to take up the sport.

Bhavina then began to learn table tennis and got off the blocks quickly. She clinched a bronze medal at a competition in the first year of her taking up the sport. It should also be noted that she did not give up on her academics for her love of the sport and completed her graduation in Sanskrit.

Parental support

Bhavina would then go on to accumulate over two dozen medals from national and international events. Her parents, who stood behind her staunchly in her journey, deserves a lot of credit. So much so, that her father, Hasmukh Patel who runs a cutlery shop in the village of Vadnagar Tehsil in Mehsana, decided to shut his shop to ensure that her daughter could train properly for Tokyo Paralympics.

"I shut the shop and reached Ahmedabad along with my wife to ensure she trains properly for the big event. We want her to stay focussed and concentrate on training," her father told The New Indian Express.

Relentless effort and robot-training

Bhavina had to put in a relentless amount of effort for the last 13 years to achieve success at the Tokyo Paralympics. Her coach Lalan Doshi has been the guiding force behind her since 2008.

The paddler also took aid of a table tennis-robot to practice during the lockdown enforced due to Covid-19. She bought a second-hand robot worth INR. 50,000 which helped her train for hours while being confined to home during the lockdown.

However, she was provided with a new robot worth INR 2.80 lakh in 2021 after being included in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), instituted by the Sports Authority of India (SAI).

Never-say-die spirit

Her coach Doshi believes it is her never-say-die spirit throughout the challenges that she faces which makes her a champion. He had noticed her winning mentality closely during the regular training.

"Bhavina has always seen ups and downs and huddles in every stage of competitions she faced, but I know the indomitable fighter within her. Whenever we faced any setback, we worked on every basic element, and she would come back stronger," Doshi told the Bridge.

"In the last couple of years, we have worked on her reflex, mental coordination, physio, food habit, rest cycle, the body clock, and every other aspect so that she could perform in pressuring situations like these. And you can see the results today," he added.