Six female athletes from Gujarat have qualified for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Ahmedabad's Maana Patel has qualified for the Olympics where she will be representing India in the 100 meters backstroke event. Maana is the first female and the third to qualify for the Olympics. Maana, 21, has had over 180 medals in her kitty, including 25 international, 72 national and 82 state level achievements. The swimmer recently won gold in 100m and silver in 50 m at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Belgrade, Serbia.
Besides Maana, Ankita Raina has qualified for tennis and Elavenil Valarivan for shooting. The other three females representing India have qualified for the Paralympics - Gandhinagar's Parul Parmar for badminton, Bhavina Patel, a native of Mehsana for para table tennis and Sonal Patel who hails from near Viramgam for para Tennis. It was 60 years ago that someone from Gujarat represented India in the Rome Olympics in 1960. Govindrao Sawant played for the hockey team from India. Before that, Shankarrao Thorat represented India in wrestling in the 1936 Olympics.
Ankita Raina will represent India in women’s tennis in doubles along with Sania Mirza. Ankita said, “It is a dream come true. Every athlete plays and trains every day in pursuit of the Olympic dream and for me now it is not a dream anymore. It is a reality. I am happy and looking forward to participating in Olympics. I will be planning practice sessions in UK after the Wimbledon gets over and plans to leave for Tokyo from UK as of now.”
Shooting star Elavenil Valarivan will aim for glory in the 10m air rifle event – both mixed and individual. The 21-year-old Ahmedabad girl, who is currently training in Croatia, said, “I felt very happy when I received the information from NRAI. The ultimate dream of any athlete is representing the country at Olympics. I was waiting for such a moment. I am thankful to Gagan Narang - my mentor and my coach. I will work hard to make my country proud.”
In the Paralympics, the three athletes from Gujarat who have made the cut are 48-year-old Parul Parmar in para badminton, and Bhavina Patel and Sonal Patel in para table tennis. Parul, ranked number one in the SL3 category, said, “I was waiting for the moment when para badminton will be included in the Paralympics. It is my dream to compete at the Paralympics and win a medal for the country. I have medals at the World para badminton championship and Asian Para Games but as para badminton was not part of Paralympics, I have not been able to participate in it till now.
Bhavina Patel (35) and Sonal Patel (34) will compete in TTF4 category. The duo started playing the sport at the Blind People’s Association 13 years ago when they were students of ITI for the persons with disabilities. Bhavina and Sonal were very happy to represent India at the sporting event.