Bhavinaben Patel was one of the success stories of Paralympics 2020. She won a silver in table tennis -- a first for India and went down fighting in the final against a fancied Chinese opponent. Upon returning home, Patel reveals how a robot and advanced wheelchair helped her realise her dream.
Covid-19 hampered the preparations of athletes all over the world and paddler Bhavinaben Patel is no different. When she didn't have a partner to train with, a robot provided by SAI proved to be the difference. Patel became the first Indian table tennis player to win a medal at the Paralympics, after she won a silver, losing out to China's Zhang Miao in the summit clash.
The TT Robot (Butterfly - Amicus Prime) cost INR 2,73,500, and an Ottobock Wheelchair, cost INR 2,84,707, which saw her finish on the podium.
“I got a robot through SAI TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme) which is an advanced robot. It has many advanced features like you can get strokes from different angles.
“So, I got good variations from it in my game. It improved my game a lot. Besides the TOPS gave us other equipment like racquets," Patel, who was afflicted with polio as a toddler, told PTI.
The robot made in Hungary is one of its kind and claims to be the best ping pong robot available with 21 pre-saved drills and ball frequency of up to 120 per minute.
“During the pandemic time (lockdown), my husband arranged a table for me at home only. That time my coach got me a second-hand robot with which I used to practice but after that I got the SAI robot in February-March 2020," she said.
“My strokes got stronger after playing with the robot. I used to play 5000 balls in a day with the robot. The ball control and placements increased a lot, spin control, cut control also enhanced. All these differences came because of that robot," she elaborated.
Not only that, but Patel also credited her husband, who was a cricketer, for all the support. “…he backed me to the tilt, pushed me saying "you can do this and you have to do his because after seeing you many athletes will come forward, you have to become their inspiration".
“Even now he tells me that you have long way to go. Nikunj has always supported me. Once I had thoughts after marriage that I can"t continue the game but he stood behind me like a rock."
“It was a love marriage, We met through common friends and then we started talking over phone. After that we told our families and just took the plunge," added Patel.