Bhavinaben Patel on Friday scripted history by becoming the first Indian table tennis player to secure a medal in the Paralympics after she entered the semifinals with a stunning straight-game win over world number 5 Borislava Peric Rankovic of Serbia in the women’s singles Class 4 event here.
The 34-year-old Indian beat her Serbian opponent 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 medal.
“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,” Paralympic Committee of India president Deepa Malik 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, she 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.