The 19-year-old Bhavika Patel is hoping to capitalise on home support to bag a medal in the upcoming 36th National Games. Bhavika breezed into the hearts of Gujarat’s sports fans by clinching a silver medal in the Senior National Wrestling Championship at Gonda, UP, last November.
She is now hoping to trigger greater enthusiasm for the grappling sport among the youth by cornering glory in the upcoming 36th National Games.
“I am delighted that the Games are being held here in Gujarat. I would love to perform in front of home crowds, and give my 100 percent. A medal will certainly give a boost to the sport in the state,” she said.
The only other time a Gujarat wrestler finished on the podium at the National Games was when Nayna Rana clinched the gold in the 1999 edition at Imphal, Manipur.
Women’s wrestling was at a nascent stage back then but has risen in popularity since the emergence of the Phogat sisters and many other girls from Haryana, each carving a niche for herself on the international stage.
Just like the Phogats, Bhavika too took to wrestling because of her father Purnamasi Patel, who represented the state for eight years.
“I grew up watching my father slog it out in mud pits. He was my inspiration to take up the sport,” Bhavika said.
At 14, she started learning the ropes at the Khokhara Sports Complex.
“Later that year, I was not selected to take part in the Khel Maha Kumbh event. Disappointed by the rejection, I worked hard and came back to win gold medals in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2022 editions of the KMK,” she was quoted as saying in a release by the organising committee of the Games.
Hoping to emulate Haryana’s wrestling stalwarts, Bhavika decided to move to Hissar in January 2021. Especially as the Covid-induced lockdowns were not allowing her good practice time.
The shift changed her life forever. “I got to train properly and won the silver medal at the Senior Nationals. I was immediately picked for the India camp in February 2022. I got to practice with the Indian wrestling contingent for the Birmingham CWG,” she said.
“I also rubbed shoulders with Olympians like Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Anshu Malik and Sangeeta Phogat. I have learnt a lot and have become a much more confident wrestler now,” she said.