The 2020 Tokyo Games silver medallist, Bhavina Patel, said that Gujarat has undergone a major transformation, which has changed stereotypes about athletes from the country.
At the Sportstar West Sports Conclave 2022 in Ahmedabad, the table-tennis player said ,”There is a major difference between Gujarat of then and now, especially in sports. Previously, it was believed that people of Gujarat would just eat ‘dal and chawal’. That notion has changed completely, and there are prospects from almost every household.”
Bhavina is one of the several successful sports professionals from Gujarat. Her recent feat came at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, where she beat Nigeria’s Ifechukwude Christiana Ikpeoyi in the final to clinch the gold medal.
“The government is thinking and supporting small households. As a result, people are now thinking of building a career in sports.”
“After the Tokyo Olympic success, more para-athletes are getting into the sport and are getting support from state and central government,” she added.
World No. 1 in para-badminton, Manasi Joshi, who had joined virtually, added that the Gujarat Sports Associations are changing the ecosystem of sports in the country where every professional in the sport is not just getting recognised but also rewarded. She cited the Arjuna Award (second-highest sporting honour) and Dronacharya Award (for coaches) as examples.
“I grew up in Rajkot and spent a lot of time learning badminton. Sports was never a career option for me. I always wanted to become an engineer and I became one, but two years after the accident, I took to sport, and in 2019, I became the World Champion. Next month, I will be travelling to Japan to defend my title,” she added.
Manasi and Bhavina also requested Ashwani Kumar, the principal secretary to the Gujarat government in the sports, youth & cultural activities department, to make reforms for para-athletes in the state.
Ankita Raina, an Asian Games medallist and Gujarat cricketer Manpreet Juneja, who were also part of the discussion, talked about the importance of coaches in the growth of a sportsperson in Gujarat.
The Conclave is being held in association with Hero We Care, a Hero Motocorp CSR Initiative, K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management, Indian Oil, Shiv Naresh, Stag International, SBI and LIC. It can be followed live on sportstar.thehindu.com.
The first edition of the Sportstar Sports Conclave was held in Kerala in 2021. Since then, Guwahati, Chennai and Lucknow have also hosted the event.