Bhavina Patel became the toast of the nation after she won silver in Table Tennis at the ongoing Tokyo Paralympics. The World No. 12 paddler, competing in the class 4 category, overcame defending champion Borislava Peric Rankovic of Serbia in the quarter-finals and Rio Paralympics silver medallist Zhang Miao of China in the semi-finals, to enter the final.
The Mehsana-native, however, was outclassed by Zhou Ying of China in the final on Sunday. But it also meant she become the first Indian table tennis player to clinch a medal at the Paralympics.
And 2008 Beijing Olympian Neha Aggarwal credited her mindset for the incredible run at Tokyo Paralympics. She pointed out that Bhavina can turn out to be an even better player if she improves her forehand technique in the coming years.
"Bhavina did not really think about World Rankings (of her opponents) and that is how it should be. She knows what her strength is, her angular backhand pushes, it's incredible the way she executes her. That's the mark of an elite athlete. It requires a lot of mental strength to beat the higher-ranked athletes," Aggarwal told Olympics.com.
"I genuinely think that her opponent was a better player in terms of her skills and strokes. I know Bhavina (Patel) is saying that she didn't give her best but I felt that she put up a good show. She did try very well. I feel if she can improve on her forehand then she can be a deadly player in the future," she added.
Aggarwal was also elated as Bhavina lived up to her words at the Tokyo Paralympics.
"Bhavina is an athlete who has a lot of belief (in herself). In all my interactions with her, she always said, medal laana hain, medal laana hai! (I have to bring a medal from the Tokyo Paralympics)," she recalled.
Moreover, the 31-year-old observed that Bhavina executed her shots quite easily.
"She (Bhavina Patel) uses the rubber (long pimples) really well. She is able to defend from it and she is able to play very fast. I think that is really good because it is hard to use the long pimples," Aggarwal said.
"It is an art and not everyone can master it. You've to be really smart and understand the spin of the game to use this rubber. Not everyone can and that's her strength," she added.
Aggarwal further believes that, at 34, it is just a start for an incredible career for Bhavina and she can add to her medal tally at Paris 2024 Paralympics.