Indore: Disability Is Their Biggest Ability

Indore: Disability Is Their Biggest Ability

NO STOPPING: For them, disability is nothing but their ability to do things differently. Their story is a shining example of the strength that comes from teamwork, love, and an unwavering belief in oneself.

Milind R LashkariUpdated: Wednesday, February 21, 2024, 06:51 PM IST
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Indore (Madhya Pradesh): At the tender age of six-months, she lost her legs, which was the result of one wrong injection, but her disability is nothing, but an ability to do things differently.

Meet Sonal Patel, a champion paddler from small Viramgam town in Gujarat whose life took a challenging turn at just six months old when she lost both her legs due to a medical error.

However, for Sonal, a daughter of a farmer, disability has never defined her, thanks to her parents, who always encourage her. Now 35 years old, she has become a table tennis champion, showcasing her resilience and determination to excel. Despite her physical challenges, Sonal's spirit remains unbroken, finding joy and purpose in sports, which not only keeps her cheerful but also serves as a testament to her belief that one's abilities are far more important than any limitations they may have.

Sonal’s journey to becoming the World Rank No 9-table tennis player and No 1 in the country (in class III) is truly inspiring.

Graduating in sociology, Sonal's life took a pivotal turn in 2008 when she was rejected for a primary school teaching position because of her disability. Instead of letting this setback deter her, Sonal used it as a catalyst for change.

She turned her focus to table tennis, a sport she loved, and began training with newfound determination at the Blind People’s Association.

Her hard work and perseverance paid off, propelling her to the top ranks of the sport and proving that with the right mindset, anything is possible.

"Initially, we felt problems due to a lack of coaches, but once we started training, and within the next three to four months, I got the opportunity to play in the Nationals held in Delhi in 2009, where I got a silver medal. This achievement not only brought her success but also boosted her confidence significantly,” Sonal said on the sidelines of her mixed doubles in the ongoing UTT Para National Ranking Table Tennis Championship here in Indore.

Sonal, who met her mixed doubles partner, and now her husband, Ramesh Chaudhary sharing her on-field and off-field chemistry, said, we met at the same place from where I’ve started my journey. Initially, I used to coach him, but now my better half Ramesh is coaching me, as he knows my strengths and weaknesses better than me, she said with a broad smile on her face.

That's a heartwarming story of partnership and growth, and now the couple is preparing for the Paralympics together. So far, Sonal has won 22 International Medals, including bronze in 2022 Commonwealth Games held in Birmingham, doubles silver medal in 2008 Asian Games held in Indonesia along with National Award for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) presented by the Government of India in 2019.

Without family and coach – Bhargava Dabi’s support, we can’t imagine ourselves at this stage. Initially, we felt disabled, but the sports boosted my confidence. Today I can beat any normal player, and we can do this, can’t you? We’ve proven that, with the right mindset and support, one can achieve incredible feats. Keep up the fantastic work!

Sonal Dabi, 30, Bhavnagar, Gujarat

What casualties happened to us doesn’t matter, but what matters is what is on the mind. In our society, we see handsome people with good physical abilities, but they are mentally weak. Involve them in sports because it teaches us to accept defeat gracefully as well as participation, which is the most important part of life.

Sanjeev G Hammannavar, 54, Belagavi City, Karnataka, five time national champion & five-time state champion

"Your achievements are a testament to your unwavering determination and exceptional skill. As a child, I faced many challenges, but table tennis provided me with a grand stage to showcase my abilities and boost my confidence. Thanks to sports, many of us can match the footsteps of others or even better than them."

Shivam Patel, 30, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, bronze medalist in the 2023 Khelo India Para Games

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