Life has taken a 360-degree turn for Bhavina Patel since she became the first Indian table tennis player to win a medal at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. Describing the feeling as “amazing,” she said, “Koi na koi phone kar hi raha hai jabse mila hai medal. It’s incredible! Bahut achha lag raha hai.
She became the second athlete after Paralympian Deepa Malik to achieve this feat and congratulate her, says: “Deepa ma’am ne humesha motivates kiya hai. Bahut achha supports diya hai yahan tak pahuchne ke liye, ”says the silver medalist, who is due to return to India on September 5, and is delighted to savor the homemade daal dhokli, which her mother makes, and the gol gappas. “Maine dedh saal se achhe se khana hi nahi khaya. Jo bhi simple mann ki cheezeing hai woh maine chui bhi nahi. Wheat flour, spicy kuch bhi nahi kha rahi thi. I had to follow a strict diet, ”she adds.
Congratulatory messages poured in from all sides, but that wasn’t always the case for Patel, who was diagnosed with polio at the age of 12 months. “Mom, dad bahut khush hain. Woh yeh bol rahe hain ki meri wajah se unka naam hua hai. Bahut saare log jo kabhi calls bhi nahin kiye le, woh log bhi ghar aake congratulates kar rahe hain. Har koi aake unko proud to feel kara raha hai. Jab main gaanv mein rehti thi, sabke dimag mein yehi tha ki, ‘Yeh bade hoke kya karegi’, ‘Kaise padai karegi’, ‘Isse shaadi kaun karega’. By mother dimag me humesha se ek hi cheez rahi, kuch kaisa karke dikhana tha jo kabhi kisi ne na kiya ho. Mujhe ek cheez samajh aa gayi ki mai kisi pe dependent nahin rahungi, autonomous rahungi!
The para-paddler got the ball rolling for the other athletes as she rained medals at the Paralympic Games after her victory. And she says she couldn’t be more ecstatic. “Saare log apne game ko leke serious hain aur itna achha performance of rahe hain; yeah bahut badi baat hai. Hume itna confidence hai ki yahan se jane ke baad woh apna effort nikalna shuru karenge. The next time the mein aur zyada Paralympic players qualify honge, ”she opines.
And although Covid-19 was difficult for most athletes, Patel says it helped her improve her game. “Covid se pehle hello simple husband ne ghar pe table arrange kar diya tha. Meri ek bhi din practices ruki nahi. Mere liye yeh bahut achhi baat ho gayi ki mujhe practice ke liye zyada time mil gaya! ”
Often the pressure on athletes is unimaginable. But Patel says keeping calm is of the utmost importance, and explains how yoga and meditation came to his rescue. She said: “Mujhe kitne bhi ghante de do mera pet nahi bharega yoga aur meditation karke. Jab khelne ki baat aati hai toh yahan by spirit pe control bahut zyada hona chahiye. Simple coach sir ne bol diya aap ek free meal sakte ho. By yeh aap pe depend karta hai ki aapke liye kya sahi hai aur aap good decision lo. Yeh chhoti baatein bhi spirit pe karti effect hai aur strong banati hain. Uss time pe apne mind ko control kar diya toh bahut bade level pe mind ko control kar sakte ho! ”
Author’s tweets @ Nainaarora8
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