New Delhi, Dec 4 (IANS): With Paralympic Games stars Bhavina Patel, Parul Parmar and Sonal Patel leading the charge, Gujarat go into the 1st Khelo India Para Games in a bullish mood, hoping to do well in the mega event.
Gujarat is one of the top countries in para-sports in the country and is expected to top the table in the upcoming games.
It was the year 2010 when the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, changed the sporting ethos of the state by introducing a unique and first-of-its-kind campaign named “Khel Mahakumbh” to nurture a culture of sports in the state.
“Khel Mahakumb” was the concept behind introducing “Khelo India.”
Nearly 13 years hence, the vision of one state would be pivotal in improving India's sports culture at the grassroots level through organised talent identification, structured sporting competitions and infrastructure development.
At the upcoming Khelo India Para Games, Gujarat will field a strong contingent of 95 para-athletes which will also include Tokyo Paralympics icons Bhavina Patel, Sonal Patel and Parul Parmar.
Top names like Amrut Panchal, Rachana Patel and Bhavna Chaudhary will also participate in the upcoming prestigious event.
Kanubhai was one of the initial members who introduced the country to para-sports. “In 1984, when we used to say that physically challenged people can play sports too, people used to laugh. They thought that we were good for nothing and that God had punished us for bad deeds in our previous life,” says Kanubhai, remembering the initial days of para-sports in the country.
The baton in the state was successfully carried on by Kantibhai Parmar, the current President of the Para Association of Gujarat and slowly Gujarat started making its mark in the field of para-sports in the country.
The state has become the hub for para-table tennis. In the first-ever Khelo India Para Games, nearly 30 players from Gujarat are participating in the discipline.
Lallan Doshi, the coach and the mentor of most of these players, is the man behind the movement.
“Bhavina (Patel) and Sonal (Patel) have been playing table tennis for quite some time but it is only after Bhavina’s silver medal at the Tokyo 2020 Para Games, that other girls took it seriously.
"Today we have developed state-of-the-art facilities for the players and also focus on rehabilitation and physical health,” says Doshi explaining the exponential growth of para table tennis in the state," he said.
Bhavina Patel, the silver medallist at the Tokyo 2020 Para Games, is one of the icon players of the country today.
“When I won the medal, it was a clear message that sportspersons from Gujarat can also achieve great things at big sports events. First-ever Khelo India Para Games is such a great platform for players who don’t get enough national-level platforms to showcase their talent. There is so much optimism about these games,” said Bhavina.
The rise of para-sports in the state is evident from the fact that three able-bodied women athletes were part of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and the same number of female athletes also qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
In the recently-concluded Asian Games at Hangzhou, China, no able-body athlete from Gujarat was able to win a medal, but when it came to the Para-Asian Games held at the same venue a few days later, Gujarat won 7 medals.
Buoyed, by the development of para sports in the sports, Kantibhai Parmar, President of Para Sports Association of Gujarat, sees a bright future for the state.
“We are very confident that our athletes shall shine at the first ever Khelo India Para Games and the state shall rise as a para-sports power. Though our normal-body athletes have underachieved to date, our para-athletes are ready to bring Gujarat to the sports map of the country.