Table Tennis robot helps Bhavinaben create history, secures Paralympic medal

The 34-yer-old stunned World No 5 Borislava Peric Rankovic of Serbia in the quarterfinals of the women's singles Class 4 event.

Published: 27th August 2021 07:02 PM  |   Last Updated: 28th August 2021 12:36 AM   |  A+A-

Indian paddler Bhavinaben Patel (Photo @ttfitweet)

Express News Service

The lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic last year might have brought everything to a grinding halt across the globe but not at Patel's household in Ghatlodiya, Ahmedabad (Gujarat). It instead gave Bhavinaben Patel an opportunity to practise for hours with a second-hand table tennis robot she has bought three years ago for Rs 50,000.

The hard work put in during the lockdown proved to be the difference on Friday as Bhavinaben scripted history by becoming the first Indian table tennis player to secure a Paralympic medal after entering the semifinals. The 34-year-old stunned World No 5 Borislava Peric Rankovic of Serbia in the women's singles Class 4 event. She won the quarterfinal 11-5, 11-6, 11-7 in 18 minutes. She will be up against Zhang Miao of China in the semifinals on Saturday and is guaranteed of at least a bronze medal.

"We bought it in 2017 and developed a complete set up at home to ensure she trains properly. It proved to be a boon during the lockdown as unlike other athletes, she didn't stop training. Instead, she trained between 8 to 12 hours every day and that gave her an edge which was on display today (Friday)," Nikul Patel, Bhavinaben's husband, told this daily from Tokyo.

The Class 4 paddler was provided with a new robot worth Rs 2.80 lakh earlier this year after she was included in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).

Bhavinaben fell down while learning to walk at the age of one and was administered an injection which impaired her from the waist below, informed her father Hasmukhbhai Patel. He runs a small cutlery shop in Sundhiya, a small village in Vadnagar Tehsil of Mahesana district.

"At the age of 12, she decided to shift to Blind People's Association in Vastrapur, Ahmedabad to learn computer. There she saw visually impaired children playing table tennis and decided to take up the sport. She won a bronze medal in a competitive event in the first year and that spurred her on," informed father.
Despite pursuing the sport professionally, she didn't abandon her studies and did her graduation in Sanskrit. She has more than two dozen medals in the international events so far.

Like the paddler, her parents too showed immense commitment once she qualified for the 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," added the father.

She might have been assured a medal but that's definitely not the end, affirms Nikul. "Now the target is to cross the semifinal hurdle and once that is done, we will aim for gold. She will also compete in doubles and hope to replicate the success thereon," signed off Nikul.

The paddler also echoed the sentiment. "I could win my semifinal match due to the support of the people of India. Please keep supporting me so that I can win my semifinal match," Patel was quoted as saying after the victory.


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