CWG 2022: Bhavina’s para TT gold redemption for narrow Olympic miss

Written by Anil Dias |

August 7, 2022 5:07:41 pm

Bhavina Hasmukhbhai Patel of India in action against Ikpeoyi Ifechukwude Christiana of Nigeria during the final of Para Table Tennis event at Commonwealth Games. (PTI)

The tears told their own story. One could see how much it meant to Bhavina Patel. She had to settle for silver at the Tokyo Paralympics – a great achievement in itself. But the para table tennis player wasn’t satisfied. She wanted to win, she wanted gold.

And win is what she did and that too in telling fashion on Saturday, beating Nigeria’s Christiana Ikpeoyi in straight games (12-10, 11-2, 11-9) to win gold at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

The scoreline may suggest an easy outing but it was anything but that. Ikpeoyi wasn’t a pushover. The first game went into extra points and Bhavina’s nerves of steel came into play.

Tokyo Paralympics 2020 silver medallist, Bhavina Patel has made India proud again. Congratulations Bhavina for winning gold in Para Table Tennis at #CommonwealthGames. You epitomise the triumph of spirit over obstacles. People should draw inspiration from your example.

— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) August 7, 2022

The second one she absolutely dominated. Ikpeoyi had no answers, looked flummoxed, and seemed to have almost given up.

The third game was going the same way until the Nigerian suddenly decided to give a final push to stay in the match. But Bhavina managed to finish the contest in straight games.

Then, for the first time on Saturday, the Indian showed her emotions. She roared, hugged her coach Lalan Doshi and cried – tears of redemption for both of them. And what a fabulous journey it has been!

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Bhavina was just a year old when her family discovered she was suffering from poliomyelitis, a disabling and, in some cases, life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus. It affects the spinal cord, and can result in paralysis.

Her disability may have prompted ridicule in her village with people telling her that she wouldn’t amount to much in life, but Bhavina kept going. Even after she was rejected in an interview for a teacher’s post because of her disability.

Honoured to have your blessings & best wishes Sir! I dedicate this 🥇to our country and to all those with big dreams to do something for India. No better gift could have been given than this medal as we celebrate our Independence Day and @AmritMahotsav. Jai Hind 🇮🇳

— Bhavina Patel PLY (@BhavinaOfficial) August 7, 2022

In 2004-05, she enrolled in an ITI course at the Blind People’s Association (BPA), an institution for the specially-abled in Ahmedabad. It was there that Bhavina was introduced to table tennis and it was there that she fell in love with the sport, even saying that she “felt like she could play the sport for 24 hours a day”.

She started playing in tournaments and soon realised she could compete at the highest level. She competed at the National Championships and started winning gold medals. Her confidence skyrocketed and she started setting new goals after deciding to take up the sport professionally in 2008.

And she does it again! Congratulations @BhavinaOfficial on making it into the finals. Another medal assured @birminghamcg22. Good luck for tomorrow and keep shining! 👏🏽👏🏽 @Media_SAI @ParalympicIndia @ianuragthakur @NisithPramanik @IndiaSports

— Deepa Malik PLY (@DeepaAthlete) August 5, 2022

Playing the sport at the highest level also meant that she had to finance herself as support from the government or federations wasn’t really forthcoming. Though she struggled in this endeavour, she knew that this was something that gave her a purpose in life. And she stuck with it.

She reached the World No. 2 ranking by winning the silver medal in the individual category at the 2011 PTT Thailand Open. In 2013, she won a silver medal in women’s singles class 4 at the Asian Para Table Tennis Championships in Beijing. In 2017, she bagged a bronze in the Asian Para Table Tennis Championships in the Chinese capital.

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Her goal was set – she wanted to win gold at the Paralympics – and she almost did. After beating World Nos 2, 3, 8, and 9 en route to the women’s singles class 4 final, she fell just short against World No. 1 Zhou Ying of China. It also meant that she was yet to win a gold in a major tournament.

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That changed on Saturday. That’s why the tears, the roar. But it could just be the beginning of a golden journey. After all, the 2024 Paris Paralympics isn’t too far away.

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First published on: 07-08-2022 at 05:07:41 pm

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