Bhavinaben Patel | photo: ANI
Tokyo: Bhavinaben Patel on Friday scripted history by becoming the first Indian table tennis player to secure a medal in the Paralympics after she stunned defending champion and world number two Borislava Peric Rankovic of Serbia to reach the semifinals of the women's singles class 4 event here.
The 34-year-old Indian beat the Rio Paralympics champion 11-5 11-6 11-7 in a quarterfinal match that lasted 18 minutes.
She takes on Zhang Miao of China in the semifinals on Saturday but she is guaranteed of at least a bronze. There is no bronze-medal play-off in Tokyo Paralympics table tennis, and both losing semi-finalists are guaranteed of a bronze.
Bhavinaben hails from Sundhiya village in Mehsana district in Gujarat. She moved to Ahmedabad after marrying Nikunj Patel, who has played junior cricket for Gujarat. Her father runs a small cutlery shop in the village.
"She is 90 per cent disabled but she has the will power and determination of 10 able bodied person. I get inspired from her will and confidence," Nikunj told PTI referring to his wife's disability due to polio affliction in childhood.
Paralympic Committee of India president Deepa Malik, who is also in Tokyo, was quick to congratulate Bhavinaben.
"It is sure that we can see a medal from her. Tomorrow morning's match (semifinal) is a huge decider what colour of the medal she will win," she said in a video footage on her Twitter handle.
In 2017, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Governing Board had approved the International Table Tennis Federation's request to remove the third-place play-off in all the medal events and award bronze to both the losing semi-finalists.
Earlier in the day, Bhavinaben had beaten Joyce de Oliveira of Brazil 12-10 13-11, 11-6 in Round of 16 to become the first Indian table tennis player to reach the quarterfinals in the Paralympics.
Athletes in Class 4 category have fair sitting balance and fully functional arms and hands. Their impairment may be due to a lower spinal-cord lesion or cerebral palsy.
"I could win my semifinal match due to the support of the people of India. Please keep supporting me so that I can win my semifinal match," Patel said after the quarterfinal match.
She had entered the knock-our round after winning one match and losing the other group game.
Compatriot Sonalben Manubhai Patel had lost both her group matches on Thursday to bow out of the competition. PTI