Tokyo Paralympics: Paddler Bhavina Patel reaches historic final, to fight for gold
After losing the first game 7-11, the 34-year-old Bhavina fought back brilliantly to beat Miao, the Rio Paralympic Games silver medallist, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4, 9-11, 11-8 in the 34-minute contest, and seal a place in a historic final.
“I am just giving my 100%. I am mentally ready for the final,” Bhavina said after her semi-final win.
First-time Paralympian Bhavina had already assured India a medal and will now contest for gold and will return will at least a silver medal, the first in table tennis at the Paralympic Games. India’s 12 medals at the Paralympics so far have come from three sports — athletics, powerlifting, and swimming.
In the final, Bhavina will take on another Chinese Zhou Ying, who defeated Gu Xiaodan 11-4, 11-3, 11-6 in the other semi-final, to whom she had lost in straight games in her first match in Tokyo Paralympics in the group stages.
Bhavani, the 34-year-old first-time Paralympian from Ahmedabad, took up table tennis to maintain fitness during her graduation days.
“I am very happy today. Bhavina Patel is definitely going to win a gold medal. For the last 20 years, she is playing Table Tennis,” said Hasmukhbhai Patel, Bhavina’s father.
It is a sensational comeback for the Indian paddler as she not only made it past the preliminary round but also beat three strong opponents including the Rio 2016 gold medallist Borislava Peric Rankovic of Serbia to reach the semifinals.
If she wins the final against Zhou Ying on Sunday, Bhavina will become the first Indian woman to win a gold medal at the Paralympic Games. She will be only the fourth person ever after swimmer Murlikant Petkar (1972), javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia (2004, 2016), and high jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu (2016) to win a gold medal for India at the Paralympic Games.
If she loses, she joins Deepa Malik as the only woman to win a medal for India in the Paralympic Games.