New Delhi, November 1: Para table tennis player Bhavina Patel is now doing for others what she wished someone had done for her also -- giving wings to someone's sporting dreams with much-needed financial support. In 2021, Bhavina became only the second Indian woman to win a Paralympic medal when she clinched the silver in the women's singles table tennis class 4 final. It was also the country's first medal in para table tennis. Asian Para Games 2023 Medal Winners Receive Grand Welcome at Delhi Airport, Video Goes Viral!

A medal in a multi-sport event in India brings with it a lot of perks including fame, attention, sponsors, and cash rewards. After her Tokyo Paralympic silver medal, Bhavina thought of ways she could make the Indian Para athletic movement stronger. One day she had an epiphany and Bhavina knew what she had to do.

"After Tokyo, I got a lot of money. I thought what should I do, how can I help others? So now I am sponsoring two players," Bhavina told PTI. Daughter of Hasmukhbhai Patel, a small-time shopkeeper at Sundhiya village in Gujarat's Mehsana district, Bhavina was diagnosed with polio when she was only 12 months old. "I come from a small village, I never dreamed that I'd play table tennis but today I have a lot of knowledge and I want to share it. "The more exposure para-athletes get the better it is for them. I had to face a lot of financial problems, I don't want others to face the same," the wheelchair-bound athlete said.

One could sense the pride in Bhavina's voice when she said, "I have adopted two para-athletes. I take care of their training expenses etc as per their requirements." Pragya Ghildial and Jashvant Choudhary are the two para table tennis players Bhavina is supporting.

Pragya, who injured her spinal cord in a road accident in 2005, and Bhavina were rivals and also partnered together for doubles way back in 2008. An extrovert who wanted to try new things, Pragya, ventured into different sports and would compete on and off up until the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 following which she quit sports.

"I have known Bhavina since the time I took up table tennis in 2008. She and I used to compete against each other. We also played doubles together. I left table tennis after the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010," the Delhi-based Pragya said. "I took a break in 2010 but then after two years started again. I have competed in the tried shot put, discus and javelin throw, archery, rifle shooting, and powerlifting. But Bhavina and I always kept in touch." Last year when Bhavina was visiting Delhi after winning the gold at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, she met Pragya, who is a peer counselor and yoga therapist at Indian Spinal Injuries Centre in Vasant Kunj. "I went to meet her at the Ashoka Hotel when she came to Delhi after winning the CWG gold. She motivated me to try TT once again."

However, Pragya, who has been on leave without pay for the past year and takes care of her retired parents, had to think about her finances before venturing back into sports. "I was able to start playing table tennis again but could not manage the expenses for foreign tournaments and there is no point in just training if you can't play.

"Bhavina is taking care of that. She is sponsoring my international expenses, travel, stay, etc, and also my equipment like the bat (racket) and the balls, which are quite costly and need to be changed frequently. I just let her know about my requirements and she couriers it to me. "She had offered to support me monthly but I could manage that. I am grateful to have her in my life," she added. Asian Para Games 2023 Ends, Indian Athletes Create History; Finish With Highest-Ever Tally of 111 Medals

Bhavina's mixed partner Jashvant is the other beneficiary of her kindness. They have won several medals together, including the gold at the ITTF (Fa20) Par Open, at Giza, Egypt earlier this year. "Play mixed doubles with him. Although, he did not win a medal at the Asian Para Games we have competed together in open tournaments and won gold. Both Pragya and Jashvant have the potential to do well," she added. Bhavina has urged other established para-athletes to do the same."The para-athletes who are now established, and getting financial support, should adopt someone. This will make a chain and that will help para athletes all over the country."

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