CHENNAI: At the tender age of five, Bhavesh Bhatt met with a weird accident while playing with his friends in Pithoragarh district (Uttarakhand). The children were playing with a broom and accidentally its sticks pierced into Bhavesh's eyes.
Despite financial constraints, father Kishan Bhatt took him to AIIMS in Delhi but doctors could only manage to save partial vision in Bhavesh's right eye.
The tragic incident followed many more hardships but Bhavesh refused to give up. Instead, he not only continued with his studies but also forayed into sports to make a name for himself.
The hard work put in paid rich dividends as he became the first gold medallist of the 20th edition of the National Para Athletics Championship, which began in Bhubaneswar, Odisha on Monday. Bhavesh won the gold in 1500m in the T13 class. Athletes with a T13/F13 sport class have the least severe vision impairment.
"I was sent to a small stadium in our vicinity by my parents in 2019 as they felt it will keep me away from boredom," the 19-year-old Bhavesh told this daily after finishing on the top of the podium. But it was not easy as he undertook trials with able-bodied athletes and finished last in every race. Given his physical impairment, Bhavesh was allowed to train at the stadium.
"After a few days, coach Pratap Singh Bisht started attending me as I never took the training sessions lightly. The nationwide lockdown imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 affected my progress as an athlete but I didn't stop training."
He had competed in a few cross country races at the local level but the ongoing event is Bhavesh's first nationals. A gold medal here has boosted his confidence and he hopes he can finish off in style in his last event (5000m), which is scheduled to be held on Wednesday.
"It (gold) feels good and I hope to win a medal in my second and last event as well. However, qualifying for the 2022 Para- Asian Games and winning a medal there is my target. My father is a small shopkeeper and we are in debt of around `7-8 lakh. I strongly believe an international medal will help me in writing off the debt," hoped Bhavesh.
The para-athlete, who is in the final year of Bachelor of Physical Education, plans to resume training with his coach soon after the meet to ensure he remains prepared for the Para-Asiad selections trials.
"This medal will keep me in good stead when the trials happen but for that, I need to work harder. Sports can be my way out from all these miseries and I will not let anything come between me and my goal," signed off Bhavesh.