Para-athletes from Gujarat win Gold internationally on their own

By Asmita Dave

Ahmedabad, May 25 (IANS): Tickets for the IPL cricket matches are sold out in a matter of hours but players who regularly win medals at the international level in sports other than cricket have to train and travel for various tournaments on their own.

The Al Watani Para Championship 2022 was recently held in Amman, Jordan. Eighteen para-athletes participated from India, and won 12 medals in the Table Tennis championship. Seven medals were bagged by para-athletes from Gujarat. Yet in a sad state of affairs, Gujarat, which has the world's largest cricket stadium, does not offer the same level of support to these players, despite winning medals all over the world.

Sonal Patel and Bhavina Patel bagged Gold medals for singles in Class 3 and Class 4 categories, respectively. Bhavina and Sonal also won Gold in doubles. The pairs of Sonal Patel and Ramesh Chaudhary, and Bhavina Patel and Jashvant Chaudhari won Silver medals in mixed doubles. Ramesh Chowdhury and Jashwant Chowdhury won Silver medal in doubles and athlete Bhavika Kukadia won a Silver medal in the doubles category along with a Turkish player.

In an interview, Ramesh Chaudhary and Sonal Patel who are a couple, mentioned that even after Bhavina Patel's victory in Paralympics, the situation has not improved at all. Sarita Gaekwad, who represented the country in the Asian Games, was given a government job but Sonal, who represented the country in the Olympics and won medals in many such international tournaments, is yet to receive a job or assistance despite multiple assurances.

This year, when 6 women athletes from Gujarat went to the Olympics for the first time, a prize money of Rs 10 lakh was given by the Chief Minister, but "Apart from that we have not received any assistance. As we are alumni of the Blind People's Association, and due to their cooperation, we can practice over there," said the couple. Sonal Patel gets a lot of help from the Olympic Gold Quest organisation for coaching and expenses, but the other athletes are pretty much helpless and bear the expenses of their training.

Bhavina Patel said, "I am very happy to have won 2 Gold medals and 1 Silver at the Al Watani Para TT Championships. Happy that I'm performing well not only in singles but also in the doubles events. It has given me a good indication about how my training is helping and the areas that need to be worked on."

Bhavina started receiving government help only after winning Silver at the Paralympics.



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