Tokyo: Bhavina Patel stormed into the final of the Women’s Class 4 section at the Tokyo 2020 on Saturday, securing for India a historic first medal in table tennis competitions at the Paralympic Games.
Bhavina came back strongly from a game deficit to stun world No. 3 Zhang Miao 3-2 in the thrilling semifinal clash Saturday, setting herself up for a historic attempt at winning a first gold medal at the Paralympic Games for herself, and the fifth overall for the country.
After losing the first game 7-11, the 34-year-old government employee from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, 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.
First-time Paralympian Bhavina has now assured India 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 (10 including 3 gold), powerlifting (1 bronze), and swimming (1 gold).
Rakesh Kumar kept alive his hopes of doing a Bhavina in archery as he moved into the pre-quarterfinals in Men’s Individual Compound Open even as compatriot Shyam Sundar Swami made his exit from the Paralympic Games.
Kumar, who was placed third after the 72-arrow ranking round, continued with his superb run by outclassing Chunen Ka Ngai of Hong Kong 144-131 in the 1/16 Elimination Round at the Yumenoshima Final Field on Saturday.
Swami went down to Matt Stutzman of the United States in the 1/16 Elimination round, losing 139-142 to end his campaign.
Ranjeet Bhati, the only other Indian in action on Saturday, went down tamely without making a single valid throw in the men’s Seated Javelin Throw competition at the Olympic Stadium.
The 24-year-old from Faridabad, who had finished fourth at the Moroccan Grand Prix in 2019, failed to register even a single throw in six attempts in the F57 section to finish the event without a mark.
But Bhavina Patel more than made up for all these disappointments as she made it to the final 53 years after Murlikant Petkar had played in the Round of 32 at the 1968 Paralympic Games in Tel Aviv, Israel.
In the final to be played Sunday, Bhavina will take on Chinese world No. 1 Zhou Ying, the player to whom she had lost in straight games in her first match in Tokyo Paralympics in the group stage.
Kumar will now take on Marian Marecak of Slovakia in the pre-quarterfinals Tuesday (Aug 31).